09/26/2002 11:00PM

Wake at Noon putting in title shot


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Even though Wake at Noon held his own in some tough company in the United States, the Sovereign Award for champion sprinter eluded him in 2001.

Wake at Noon will try to wrap up that award this year, as the 126-pound highweight, in Sunday's Grade 3, $160,800 Highlander Handicap, a supporting feature on Canadian International Day at Woodbine.

Wake at Noon launched his 2002 campaign with three consecutive stakes victories, in the Briartic, Jacques Cartier, and Vigil. After finishing well back in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont and in the Grade 2 Nearctic Handicap, he won the allowance prep for the Bold Venture Handicap.

Wake at Noon was a flat third in the July 20 Bold Venture and was freshened until Sept. 8, when he took the allowance prep for the Highlander, earning his season-high Beyer Speed Figure of 105.

Unlike last year, Wake at Noon was hard-ridden in the majority of his early season outings, leading many to conclude that he had lost a step or two. Trainer Abraham Katryan believes Wake at Noon is back in peak form.

"He's thriving right now," Katryan said. "He didn't enjoy the really hot weather this summer, but he's back to his old self now. He's as good as I can get him. He needed that last race, which we used as a stepping-stone to this one."

Rounding out the field for the six-furlong Highlander are Krz Ruckus, Mr. Epperson, Davids Expectation, and the Bob Tiller-trained entry of Rare Friends and Cheap Talk.

Krz Ruckus, another Sovereign contender, captured two restricted stakes in July for trainer Mike DePaulo. He was recently second as the favorite in the Shepperton Stakes, in which he was hounded on the lead by New York invader Trailthefox for the second year in a row.

"The Shepperton seems like a race we just can't win," DePaulo said, joking. "I'm gonna hold Trailthefox up at the border the next time he comes. He's killed me on the front end two years in a row. Both times, they went the half in 44 and change," a time DePaulo said "softened up" Krz Ruckus.

Rare Friends should be close to the early pace, and could help set the table for a closing Cheap Talk, who finished three-quarters of a length behind Wake at Noon when he ran second in the prep.

Two entries loom in Chief Bearhart

The Mark Frostad-trained, Sam-Son Farm entry of Sky Chariot and Spicy Prospector heads Sunday's other stakes, the $109,000 Chief Bearhart.

Sky Chariot has won two in a row, including the With Approval Stakes, and should be tough if he gets good to firm footing. Spicy Prospector mounted a belated inside rally from far back to finish fifth in a recent classified allowance.

The three-horse entry of El Soprano, Red Sea, and Silver Axe should also be well-backed in the 1 1/4-mile grass race.

El Soprano, trained by Roger Attfield, is coming off a narrow loss to Portcullis in the Breeders' Stakes, the final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

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