05/01/2005 11:00PM

Judiths Wild Rush gives Baker a present


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Reade Baker was celebrating his 58th birthday here last Saturday and Judiths Wild Rush provided the icing for the cake, winning the $166,100 Vigil Handicap.

The Vigil marked the fifth stakes start of the meeting for Baker, who had finished second with Judiths Wild Rush in the Jacques Cartier, second with Silver Bird in the Whimsical, and second with Gold Strike in the Star Shoot.

Judiths Wild Rush, a 4-year-old who was Canada's champion 2-year-old male when trained by Scott Fairlie, was making just his second start for Baker and jockey Slade Callaghan after racing five times in Florida this winter for trainer Julian Canet.

"Scott wasn't having any luck with this horse," said owner Harvey Tenenbaum, who still has other horses with Fairlie. "We fooled around with him in Florida and learned one thing - his best effort is a stalking trip. He wants to relax in the middle part of the race.

"That's what we told Slade, and that's what he's doing. I think it's mostly maturity on the horse's part; he's settled down."

Judiths Wild Rush will be nominated to the Grade 3, $150,000 Eclipse, a 1 1/16-mile handicap for 4-year-olds and upward here May 23. But, both Baker and Tenenbaum are adopting a wait-and-see attitude.

"It's difficult enough to run two big numbers back-to-back," said Baker, "and the Eclipse would be his third race in five weeks."

Judiths Wild Rush earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 103 when beaten a nose in the Cartier and got a lifetime-best Beyer of 105 for the Vigil.

Two champions fill out Vigil trifecta

Judiths Wild Rush's immediate victims in the Vigil were Mobil, Canada's reigning older male champion, and A Bit O'Gold, last year's Sovereign Award-winning 3-year-old male. Both horses were making their first start of the season.

Mobil, the even-money choice and 124-pound highweight, had won last year's Vigil in his seasonal debut, but was beaten 1 1/4 lengths as the runner-up this time around.

"I thought he ran a big race," said Mobil's trainer, Mike Keogh. "I think the weight got to him. I don't think he needed the race; he won it last year off the same preparation."

A Bit O'Gold, beaten a total of two lengths as the third-place finisher, received high marks from trainer Catherine Day Phillips.

"I thought he ran great," said Day Phillips. "You always hope to win, but he was as tight as we were going to get him breezing. He needed to get racing."

With or without Judiths Wild Rush, A Bit O'Gold and Mobil are scheduled to renew acquaintances in the Eclipse.

Baker a yes for Fury, maybe for Queenston

Baker could be represented in both stakes here this weekend, with Galaxy a possibility for Saturday's seven-furlong Queenston and River Nore a definite candidate for Sunday's seven-furlong Fury.

Galaxy was entered in a first-level allowance race here last Saturday but spiked a temperature and was a late scratch.

River Nore finished a closing second in her seasonal debut, which came in an Ontario-sired first-level allowance over five furlongs of sloppy going here April 24.

"I thought she ran a great race, stuck out where she was, in the mud," said Baker. "I think she'll be a real force in the Fury."

Baker's other recent stakes runners-up also are penciled in for upcoming stakes.

Silver Bird, who worked five furlongs in 1:02.20 under regular rider Jim McAleney here Sunday morning, is slated for the Grade 3, $150,000 George C. Hendrie, a 6 1/2-furlong handicap for older fillies and mares here May 15.

Gold Strike's next major target is the Grade 3, $250,000 Selene, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies here May 22, which is the final stakes prep for the June 12 Labatt Woodbine Oaks.

Nominations closed Sunday for the $500,000 Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-breds, and Gold Strike was supplemented to the race at a cost of $5,000.

Wando has gate work before Westchester

Wando, Canada's Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old of 2003, was scheduled to ship out Monday evening for Wednesday's Grade 3 Westchester Handicap at Belmont.

In his final tune-up for the one-mile Westchester, Wando worked five furlongs from the gate here last Friday in 1:00.20, the fastest of 84 works at the distance.

"He hadn't broken well in his last two starts," said Keogh, his trainer, explaining the reason for the gate work.

Black wins one right out of the gate

Ian Black, who took out his trainer's license last week, scored with his first starter here Sunday as Brandy Lake ($17) won the first race.

Brandy Lake, a homebred 3-year-old filly, races for the Kinghaven Farm of David Willmot, Woodbine's chairman and chief executive officer.

Black has been the Kinghaven Farm manager for some 30 years.

* Lucky Tomoli, trained by Baker, was injured while finishing seventh in the Star Shoot and has been retired, Baker said. Lucky Tomoli is at Windfield Farms and will be bred to Whiskey Wisdom. Her owner, Jim McAlpine, plans to keep the foal.

* The Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club will hold its first meeting of 2005 here at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the second-floor International Room. New members and guests are welcome.