04/16/2008 11:00PM

Kentucky Bear still targeting Derby

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Based on his third-place finish in last Saturday's Blue Grass, Kentucky Bear would have as good a right as many to be in the starting lineup for the Kentucky Derby.

But, with graded stakes earnings of $75,000 looming well below the cutoff point, Kentucky Bear is very unlikely to earn a spot in the maximum 20-horse field.

"Our chances of getting in are pretty slim, but I'm going to try anyway," said Reade Baker, whose barn has been prominent in the early days of this Woodbine meeting while the trainer himself has looked on from Florida and Kentucky.

"If that fails, I'm going to head to Pimlico for the Preakness."

Baker returned to Palm Meadows in Florida following the Blue Grass, and he still had five horses there Thursday. But he sent out his last starter of the Gulfstream Park meeting when Find the Wire ended a solid runner-up in a maiden special over 1 1/8 miles of turf Monday.

"He'll be fun to have in Toronto this year," said Baker, from his soon to be vacated Florida headquarters.

Meanwhile, Baker plans to put in his first appearances of the meeting this week and is particularly keen to see the seasonal bow of Bear Now here in Sunday's $150,000 Whimsical, a six-furlong race for fillies and mares.

"Three-quarters, that's not her best game, but we've got to deal with the hand we're dealt," Baker said.

"She's done well; she had a good winter."

Bear Now, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old owned by the Bear Stable of Danny Dion, won four stakes and $769,750 last year but was upstaged by Sealy Hill in the Sovereign Award voting for her division.

Northern Netti, Payday Peril impress

Baker also has unleashed a couple of promising prospects here in Northern Netti, a New York-bred 3-year-old filly, and Payday Peril, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old gelding.

Northern Netti recorded her second win in as many career outings here April 6, capturing a first-level allowance at five furlongs.

"She's got some talent," Baker said.

Northern Netti is slated to make her next appearance in the $100,000 Bouwerie, a seven-furlong race for statebred 3-year-old fillies at Belmont on May 4.

Payday Peril recorded a win and three seconds from four starts in his first campaign last year.

Last Saturday, Payday Peril returned from a layoff of almost 10 months to romp in a first-level allowance at seven furlongs and earn a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 88.

"He trained like he was going to do that," said Baker, noting that gelding Payday Peril appeared to have had a positive effect. "The smoke signals were there a long time ago."

Baker stars on the sidelines

Baker also has a number of stakes-caliber 3-year-olds who have been hors de combat recently for various reasons.

Bear Holiday, a Kentucky-bred colt who was perfect in three starts and a double stakes winner here last year, and Jazz Nation, an Ontario-bred colt who has placed in stakes at Monmouth and Ocala, will be off through the summer.

Bear Lahaina, a Kentucky-bred filly who graduated at first asking here last year but then injured herself when second in the Sandpiper at Tampa Bay Downs last December, is back in training but three months away from racing.

"She might be an exceptional filly when I get her back," Baker said.

Notgivinmyloveaway, who won the restricted Pennsylvania Nursery last November but was hurt when finishing up the track in a subsequent start at Gulfstream, has just returned to training.

Carey enjoys winter at Gulfstream

Julia Carey, who has been training here for 10 years, set up shop at Gulfstream for the first time this winter.

"It was a very good experience," said Carey, who hails from a racing family and had worked in the mutuels department for more than 20 years before leaving last fall to devote her energies exclusively to the training game.

"There was no money down there, but I met some very good horsemen. I didn't run as often as I'd have liked to, because I was afraid of running the horses too cheap.

"Next time, I'll bring some cheaper horses and run them where I don't worry about losing them, along with a couple of good ones to get ready for the future."

Carey, who won one race from just eight entrants at Gulfstream, shipped out March 20 but left six horses in the Ocala area after being allocated just eight stalls here.

On Saturday, Carey has entered her first three horses for this meeting in Kahanamoku, who was unplaced in two starts at Gulfstream; Disfunction, who captured a first-level allowance there before running fourth under his next condition; and Rocket Path, a first-time starter.

Kahanamoku, a Florida-bred, has 12 rivals in a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds.

Disfunction, a British Columbia-bred 4-year-old gelding, is among 13 entrants in a second-level $62,500 optional claimer.

Rocket Path is the last of four also-eligibles in an Ontario-sired 3-year-old maiden race.

Carey horses on waiting list

Carey also claimed Cargo Mate, a Florida-bred 3-year-old colt, for $20,000 at Gulfstream on March 8 but has yet to ship him north.

"I left him in Ocala," Carey said. "I couldn't run him right away - he's still in jail. But he needed a break, anyway."

Carey also is looking forward to the return of Soldier Girl, a Florida-bred 4-year-old filly who won on the turf here and at Keeneland last year but disappointed in Florida.

"She got real sick on me down there," Carey said.

Peter and Zoe, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old gelding, also is on Carey's waiting list.

"He got hurt last year, but he's back in training," said Carey, who sent out Peter and Zoe to win a first-level allowance over 1 1/8 miles of turf in his only local appearance last June 22.

Meanwhile, Carey will have to do without the racing services of Friendly Theresa, who has been her best runner to date but has been retired and is in foal to One Way Love.

Friendly Theresa, claimed for $40,000 here in September 2005, won 6 races and earned $267,664 in 15 starts for Carey.