06/15/2009 11:00PM

War Eagle Lady on the upswing for Baker

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Jimmy Baker has been around plenty of good horses. He worked as a stablehand and assistant for David Whiteley for seven years and for Shug McGaughey for five years, and that was after learning the ropes under his late father, George, whose high-profile clients included Allaire duPont and George Steinbrenner.

Baker now has been training horses on his own for 20 years and has won nearly 400 races with such standouts as Spinning Round, Mahogany Hall, One Bold Stroke, and Elite Squadron. He isn't sure whether War Eagle Lady, the likely favorite in the Thursday feature at Churchill Downs, will join that roster by eventually winning a stakes race, although he is hoping she can.

"I liked her a lot last year, but then she had two bad races this spring," said Baker, 51. "That's why we put her in for a tag last month."

War Eagle Lady, owned by Pattons Creek Farm, ran off the TV screen in winning that May 14 race for a $30,000 tag, earning a 96 Beyer Speed Figure and a quick return to the allowance ranks. She went through her first allowance condition by wheeling back to win here nine days later, and off those back-to-back scores, she should take plenty of beating when facing seven other fillies and mares in the eighth of nine Thursday races, a $52,700, second-level allowance at seven furlongs.

Calvin Borel has the mount back on War Eagle Lady, a 4-year-old War Chant filly who is unbeaten in three tries over the Churchill main track. She also won a maiden-special race here last fall.

Baker, whose midsized stable has been winning at a 24 percent clip this year (13 of 54), said he has been so encouraged by how his horses are performing that he plans to take a 12-horse string to Saratoga this summer.

"I haven't taken a string to Saratoga since Mahogany Hall won the Whitney Handicap in 1996," he said. "I'm pretty pumped."

War Eagle Lady will start from post 8, and she figures to be forwardly placed once again, having led gate-to-wire in her last two races. Her main opposition appears to be Scarlet Love, Mein Fraulein, and Whipporwill Creek.