05/16/2007 11:00PM

Kuma shoots for Marine upset


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Reade Baker watched Bear Character finish a disappointing third as the odds-on choice in last year's Grade 3 Marine Stakes at Woodbine.

Baker will be looking for an upset with a bear of a different color in this year's $250,000 Marine on Saturday - with Kuma, who will be making just his second career start in the 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds.

Kuma, which is the Japanese word for bear, races for Danny Dion's Bear Stable and was purchased privately after being a buyback at Keeneland's 2-year-olds in training sale.

"He was in at the track last year, but he kept having 'shin,' " said Baker. "So we took him to Kentucky this winter, and he came back here this spring."

Kuma, a Kentucky-bred, made his debut on April 22 at Woodbine, breaking from an outside post and rallying strongly to finish second as the favorite behind the stakes-placed Bilbo, who is also in the Marine lineup.

"Certainly it seems odd running a maiden in a stake, but I think the horse that beat him the other day will be a contender in the stake, so why wouldn't we be a contender?" Baker said. "If he'd had a little more ground, or we had had him a little readier, or he didn't draw outside, we would have won that day, I think."

Baker believes that Kuma will relish the added distance of the Marine.

"I always like two short runs before a long run, but we've got big dreams for him, so this is where we're going," said Baker. "I'm really high on him. I think he's a special horse."

Two more 'bears' in Sunday's Selene

Baker and Dion also plan to field a pair of bears for Sunday's Grade 3, $250,000 Selene, with Bear Now and Bear Bullet Too in that 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

"I expect them both to run well," said Baker.

Bear Now, a Kentucky-bred who was purchased for $65,000 as a yearling at Keeneland, has placed in two stakes, including the six-furlong Star Shoot in her last start here April 22.

Bear Bullet Too, a Kentucky-bred who was a $40,000 buy at an Ocala 2-year-olds in training sale, finished a closing fifth in her season debut in a first-level allowance going six furlongs at Keeneland.

"We couldn't get a race to go for her here so we sent her to Kentucky," said Baker.

Bear Now and Bear Bullet Too prepped for the Selene last Sunday, going six furlongs in 1:14.80.

"I thought all along that Bear Bullet Too was a better filly and Bear Now was a sprinter, but they worked together the other day and Bear Bullet Too couldn't handle Bear Now," said Baker.P

Vancouver invaders looking good

Trainer Terry Jordan has checked in from Vancouver with a half-dozen horses, including True Metropolitan, Canada's champion older male in 2006, and recent stakes winner Calendar Girl.

True Metropolitan, winner of the 1o1/16-mile Woodbine Slots Cup last Nov. 18, will make his second start of 2007 in Monday's Grade 3, $250,000 Eclipse at the same distance.

A 5-year-old Florida-bred gelding, True Metropolitan won the 6 1/2-furlong George Royal in his season debut at Hastings on May 5.

Calendar Girl, purchased privately after winning her maiden for $32,000 at Gulfstream this winter, has been entered in the Selene.

Bred in Kentucky, Calendar Girl won the six-furlong Mount Royal at Calgary's Stampede Park in her first start for her new interests.

Both True Metropolitan and Calendar Girl are owned by Bob Cheema, who was a Sovereign Award finalist in the owner category last year, and will be ridden by Alberta-based Quincy Welch, who will be making his first appearance at Woodbine.

Jordan's other runners here are Judgment Day, Fortynine Express, and Dancing Allstar - all owned by Cheema - and That's an Outrage, who races for Canstar Stable.

Judgment Day, 4, finished second when making his seasonal bow in a six-furlong maiden special at Hastings on May 5.

Fortynine Express, a Kentucky-bred 3-year-old gelding, won a six-furlong maiden special in his last start at Hastings last July 22.

Dancing Allstar, a British Columbia-bred 2-year-old filly, won a 3 1/2-furlong maiden special in her debut at Hastings on May 6.

That's an Outrage, a Kentucky-bred 6-year-old gelding, finished a close fourth in a 6 1/2-furlong classified allowance in his last start at Hastings on May 12.

Polytrack rewaxing not yet finished

Wednesday night's eight-race program went off as scheduled, and the Polytrack surface reopened for training on Thursday morning. It was closed the previous two mornings for rewaxing.

The application of a new type of wax that should reduce kickback was supposed to be completed on Thursday, but the project was delayed until next week because of heavy rain and hail that fell late Tuesday afternoon .

"We've still got about 10 feet to do on the very outside, down the stretch, and the quarter-mile chute didn't get done," said Irwin Driedger, Woodbine's director of racing surfaces.

The next stage of the Polytrack renovation, the addition of a jelly-cable mixture that should keep the track from getting too loose in cooler weather, is scheduled for July 27-29, weather permitting.