10/26/2004 11:00PM

Sky Hunter long overdue


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sky Hunter will try to end a long drought in Friday's Woodbine feature, a $62,500 optional claimer for 3-year-olds and up on the grass.

Sky Hunter, a three-time winner in 28 starts, hasn't won since June 1, 2002, when he upset Numerous Times in the allowance prep for the Nearctic Handicap. This year, he has run six times on dirt or turf, while recording four top-three finishes.

Sky Hunter has run four solid races since he was claimed by trainer Scott Fairlie for $25,000 in July. He finished second in three consecutive $40,000 claimers over a variety of distances during the summer, which included a narrow loss to A Nice Splash in a seven-furlong turf sprint July 29.

Sky Hunter is coming off one of the better performances of his career, in an $80,000 optional claimer. He set an uncontested pace before ending up a neck back in second, earning a 93 Beyer Speed Figure. The winner, I Thee Wed, came back to capture the Grade 2 Nearctic last Sunday.

Na Somsanith will ride Sky Hunter, who should be forwardly placed.

Among the other contenders in the seven-furlong race are Riva's Tribute, Relaunch Star, and Lucky Tom.

Riva's Tribute, a late-blooming 5-year-old trained by John LeBlanc Jr., defeated preliminary allowance opposition going a mile three races ago on Aug. 18. He was fourth behind stakes winners Dalavin and Dashing Admiral in his next-to-last outing, and is coming off a fading fifth-place finish over a sloppy track in an $80,000 event taken off the grass.

Chantal Sutherland retains the mount on Riva's Tribute, who is normally a closer.

Relaunch Star wired $80,000 opposition and received a 94 Beyer in a seven-furlong turf race Aug. 18. He was beaten six lengths last time out when ninth after flashing speed in the Maryland Million Turf Sprint Handicap at Pimlico.

Relaunch Star figures to set the pace, with Jim McAleney riding for trainer Danny Yu.

Lucky Tom finished sixth in the allowance prep for the Grade 3 Play the King Handicap in August, before finishing 10th after a wide trip in the Play the King itself. He's exiting a 14th-place finish against $62,500 foes, and is being reunited with apprentice Corey Fraser.

Jeepis Missed is one of four main-track-only runners in the feature. He came wide with an eye-catching kick to defeat an accomplished field of $40,000 claimers on Oct. 3.