06/07/2006 12:00AM

Oddly, no Oaks runners for Baker


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - On the second Sunday in June last year, trainer Reade Baker was sending out half of the field of 10 for the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks.

Gold Strike won that day for Baker, whose other starters were fourth-place finisher Whiskey and Low, fifth-place finisher Bosskiri, seventh-place finisher Pirouetting, and ninth-place finisher River Nore.

Baker had an even higher percentage of starters in the 2004 Woodbine Oaks, with Touchnow finishing second, and Hong Kong Dancer and Silver Bird finishing fourth and fifth in the five-horse field.

This year, however, Baker will be a spectator when the 51st running of the Woodbine Oaks takes place here Sunday.

Although Baker had several Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies this season, including four who had been kept eligible May 1 at the final nominations stage for the Woodbine Oaks, not one managed to measure up to the 1 1/8-mile distance.

"None of them could go that far," said Baker. "Most of them didn't really have two-turn pedigrees."

Baker said he still plans to have several of the barn's 3-year-old fillies in action here Sunday, with their target being the $100,000 Alywow Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong turf race for 3-year-old fillies.

Gold Strike points to Hill 'n' Dale

Gold Strike breezed six furlongs in 1:12 on the fast main track here Wednesday and will make her next start in the $100,000 Hill 'n' Dale Stakes here June 17. Regular rider Jim McAleney was aboard for the work.

"It was good, by any standard," said Baker. "I didn't get to work her last weekend, and I didn't want to work her twice [before the Hill 'n' Dale], so this will be it. It should be good enough."

The Hill 'n' Dale, a 1 1/16-mile race, was formerly for 3-year-old fillies but will include older fillies and mares this year.

Gold Strike finished second in her 2006 debut in the Grade 3 Hendrie Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs here May 14. The Hendrie was Gold Strike's first start since last year's Queen's Plate on June 26, when she finished third two weeks after winning the Oaks.

Schooner Bay drops to allowance

Fillies and mares will be in the spotlight here Friday in a pair of optional claiming races.

Schooner Bay, winner of the 1 1/16-mile Classy n Smart over Ontario-sired fillies and mares here last fall, heads a competitive field of five in the feature, a third-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles. Carded as the first race, the allowance offers a purse of $78,400 and an optional claiming price of $80,000.

Owned by Melnyk Racing Stable and trained by David Bell, Schooner Bay finished eighth in her only appearance this year, in the Hendrie.

"It was a tough spot, and she didn't really fire," said Bell. "She didn't leave the gate running, and she got shuffled back. She had a bad trip. Her race wasn't as bad as it looked."

Schooner Bay had been entered in Wednesday night's Ballade, a six-furlong race for Ontario-sired fillies and mares, but was scratched.

"I was looking at the stake, but it looked like it was going to come up too speedy for her," said Bell. "She has speed, but she doesn't have three-quarter speed. I think she's a real nice filly going long."

The fourth race Friday is a second-level allowance at six furlongs, which offers a $66,800 purse and an optional claiming price of $62,500.

The race has a field of seven, including Friendly Theresa. Trained by her part-owner Julia Carey, Friendly Theresa won the five-furlong allowance prep for the six-furlong Whimsical Stakes in her season debut before faltering to finish last of 13 in the Whimsical. Friendly Theresa weakened to finish fourth in a 6 1/2-furlong starter allowance last time out and should appreciate the distance and company here.

Bad Hat has first work in a while

Bad Hat, who was knocked off the Queen's Plate trail by the virus that has been making the rounds here, worked four furlongs in 49.80 seconds on the turf training course Wednesday morning. The workout was Bad Hat's first in almost four weeks and his first on grass.

Todd Kabel was aboard for the drill and is scheduled to ride Bad Hat for the first time in the $125,000 Bold Ruckus, a six-furlong turf race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds on June 14.

"He worked a little slow, but Kabel thought he went really well," said Mike DePaulo, trainer and part-owner of Bad Hat.

Bad Hat was undefeated in three starts at 2, including two stakes, while sticking to Ontario-sired company.

In his 2006 debut, the May 6 Queenston at seven furlongs, Bad Hat finished fifth, beaten 1 1/2 lengths.

Break over for Judiths Wild Rush

Judiths Wild Rush breezed four furlongs in 48.60 on the main track Wednesday, his first work since winning the Grade 3 Vigil over seven furlongs here April 29.

"He had a little break, but he stayed here," said Baker, who trains Judiths Wild Rush. "We started looking at it and realized every time we shipped him to the farm we never had any luck with him."

Judiths Wild Rush's next stakes target here is the July 22 Bold Venture, a $125,000 race for 3-year-olds and upward.

The Bold Venture, originally scheduled for 6 1/2 furlongs, is scheduled to be run at 7 1/2 furlongs on the converted harness track. That seven-furlong oval will host Thoroughbred racing here this summer while the one-mile main track is replaced with a Polytrack surface.

* Advance wagering on Saturday's Belmont Stakes will be available beginning at 3 p.m. on Friday at all Woodbine Entertainment Group locations.