11/13/2009 12:00AM

Ice Bear strong off solid prep


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The venerable Ice Bear heads a diverse 12-horse field in the $150,000 Autumn Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile Polytrack route at Woodbine on Saturday.

Ice Bear captured the allowance prep for the Grade 2 Autumn under a patient ride from Chantal Sutherland. He sat at the back of a tightly-bunched pack in that slow-paced event, and then made a wide bid exiting the far turn en route to a 2 1/2-length tally over Stunning Stag.

"He was much the best in there," said Mac Benson, who trains Ice Bear for owner George Strawbridge Jr. "He could have went [to the lead], but Mr. Strawbridge likes him to come from out of it. That was the plan, and Chantal gets along with him so well.'

Benson said he thinks 1 1/16 miles is the ideal distance for Ice Bear, who was a front-running third behind the eventual champion older male, Marchfield, and Stunning Stag in the 2008 Autumn.

"I don't think there was much pace in there last year," Benson recalled.

Pool Play rallied strongly during a very wide trip to upset Ice Bear in the nine-furlong Durham Cup Stakes on Oct. 4. It was the first stakes score for Pool Play, who also won his return from a five-month layoff in a first-level allowance Aug. 29.

Palladio, Canada's champion 3-year-old in 2005, took the 1 1/16-mile Seagram Cup Stakes following a six-month break here in August.

Palladio awaited room at the quarter pole before closing inside for third in the Grade 3 Durham Cup. He also finished third in the prep for the Autumn.

Stunning Stag outran Palladio for second in the prep, which came after his decisive win in the restricted Mt. Sassafras Stakes.

The three shippers in the 12-horse field are Sr. Henry, Teide, and Storm Caller.

Sr. Henry is based in Kentucky with trainer Ken McPeek. He won a first-level allowance on the dirt at Gulfstream in February and didn't start again until his victory last month in a second-level allowance on Keeneland's Polytrack.

Teide was the leading older runner this year at Hastings, where he won three nine-furlong stakes on the dirt. Most recently in the 1 3/8-mile B.C. Premier's Stakes, he made most of the running before coming up a head short of a longshot winner.

The Saratoga-based Storm Caller narrowly lost his last outing in an optional claimer on the grass at Belmont.