06/09/2005 12:00AM

'Ruckus' looks in peak form


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Barbeau Ruckus should be a major force Saturday at Woodbine in the $125,000 Steady Growth Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired runners that he won in 2003.

After winning the 2004 New Providence Stakes, Barbeau Ruckus was a well-beaten fourth in last year's Steady Growth. He subsequently placed in two stakes in July, then missed the second half of 2004 with a minor injury.

Barbeau Ruckus reappeared May 14 in the six-furlong New Providence, and finished a troubled second. After breaking slowly, he assumed a stalking position and was blocked behind rivals early in the stretch. He was angled wide inside the eighth pole and then kicked in strongly, but came up 1 1/4 lengths short of a sharp Mister Coop.

Trainer Ross Armata felt that Barbeau Ruckus ran a winning race in the New Providence, and said the gelding is entering the Steady Growth in peak form.

"I was very happy with the way he ran," Armata said. "He's going into this race in a good way. I just hope he gets a good trip. If everything works out, he'll be tough."

Barbeau Ruckus, a handsome 6-year-old with $787,459 in earnings, is a versatile sort who has a strong will to win.

"He can go short or long," Armata said. "He tries every time."

Todd Kabel picks up the mount on Barbeau Ruckus, who has won 6 of 13 starts at 1 1/16 miles.

Mister Coop, Dave the Knave, and Kent Ridge are also in the Steady Growth lineup.

Danny Vella assumed the training of Mister Coop this year, after the gelding went winless in seven starts in 2004. Mister Coop captured his season opener in a five-furlong optional claimer, then took the New Providence after a favorable four-wide stalking trip.

In his only top-three placing going 1 1/16 miles, Mister Coop won an entry-level allowance in a moderate clocking in 2002. The distance should be within his range Saturday if he fires one of his better shots.

Dave the Knave, the lone 3-year-old in the field, could run back in the June 26 Queen's Plate with a big effort this weekend, according to trainer Bob Tiller.

"He'd have to run gigantic to go on to the Plate," said Tiller, who said he's also looking at Sunday's Victoria Park Stakes with Dave the Knave.

Kent Ridge was a $40,000 claim last fall by trainer Sid Attard, who sent him out to win a seven-furlong allowance in his second appearance at the meeting.