11/21/2002 12:00AM

Ruckus long overdue to win

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Barbeau Ruckus has earned a string of

80-plus Beyer Speed Figures in his eight starts this year, but the bottom line is that he hasn't won since he captured the Kingarvie Stakes last

Dec. 2.

Barbeau Ruckus meets the weakest field he has faced in a while Saturday at Woodbine in the Sir Barton Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile stakes for Ontario-sired male 3-year-olds.

Barbeau Ruckus went on the Queen's Plate trail in the spring, finishing seventh in the Plate itself, beaten just 4 1/2 lengths. He subsequently ran fourth on turf in the Vice Regent Stakes, and was a wide third behind Forever Grand and United States invader Cool N Collective in the Elgin Stakes.

Barbeau Ruckus recorded his fifth third-place finish of the year in the allowance prep for the Sir Barton, where he probably faced a tougher field than the one he will face in Saturday's stakes because the race wasn't limited to Ontario-sired 3-year-olds.

Trainer Ross Armata believes rating tactics may have been counterproductive to Barbeau Ruckus, who won all three of his 2-year-old starts by racing close to the early pace.

"We tried to teach him to come from off the pace this year, and I think it backfired on us a little," Armata said. "We're going to try to place him a little closer to the lead, so that he doesn't have as much work to do down the lane."

Armata said the Sir Barton has been on Barbeau Ruckus's agenda for some time.

"We've been pointing him towards this race during the last part of the year," Armata said. "He's in good order, and I hope he breaks the jinx of running third by finishing first."

Also entered in the $128,625 stakes were Mister Coop, Twice Bid, Sophia's Prince, El Habanero, and Dillinger.

Mister Coop, the other prime contender in the lineup, is back in peak form after suffering through a summer slump. He was recently second to Mulligan the Great in the seven-furlong Deputy Minister Stakes.

Trainer John Ross said Mister Coop disliked the hot summer weather, something his full brother, Great Defender, Woodbine's six-furlong track record holder, also disliked.

"He got heat prostration in the summer, and has been handling this cooler weather a lot better," Ross said of Mister Coop. "I feel better about him now, and I expect him to run a decent race. He won at a mile and sixteenth earlier this year."

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