06/21/2012 12:25PM

Woodbine: Baker has faith in both his Queen's Plate prospects

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Reade Baker hopes he is holding a pair of aces when he bids for his first Queen’s Plate win here at Woodbine on Sunday.

There are some similarities between River Rush and Macho Whiskey as both were unraced at 2, spent time with Baker at Payson Park last winter, and will be making their third career starts in the 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate.

But there also are dramatic differences.

River Rush is heading into the $1 million Queen’s Plate as the 4-1 second choice off a dominant victory in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial here June 3 while Macho Whiskey finished last of five at the same distance when making his most recent appearance in a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds on May 27.

River Rush, a homebred who races for Frank Stronach, joined Baker at Palm Meadows in December and had been identified as a Queen’s Plate prospect by the end of January.

“He was sound, with a good temperament and a pedigree to go two turns, “ said Baker.

“He was extremely slow to come around but every little thing he did was a slight bit better than how he did it the time before. It was a long, slow process.”

River Rush began his career with an eighth-place finish over one mile of turf at Gulfstream Park on March 10.

Seven weeks later, making his Polytrack debut here at 1 1/16 miles, River Rush closed strongly to finish second behind the promising but since sidelined Awesome Overture.

“Once we’d run him here once, do you try and pack two races in before the Queen’s Plate?,” asked Baker.

The answer came five weeks later in the Plate Trial when River Rush, who was in the lineup only because a maiden race that day had failed to fill, launched a rail rally which carried him to a 5 1/4-length victory under jockey Jim McAleney.

River Rush earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 89, a 10-point increase over his previous start. Baker, who is a disciple of the Ragozin sheets, does not discount the possibility of a bounce.

“I’ll worry about that after the Plate,” said Baker. “Going by the numbers, he was good enough on the sheets that if he reacts slightly he still could win it.

“Everything’s the same as before. He just gallops, just works, does what he has to do. Maybe that’s why he’s got this far.”

Macho Whiskey, a homebred who races for owner Dick Bonnycastle, did not surface at Palm Meadows until February.

“He’s a handful, all the time,” said Baker. “He’d got hurt, in the fall.”

“But I’d trained his mother, Whiskey and Low, and she won around two turns. His father, Macho Uno, was a two-turn horse who gets two-turn horses so you’re halfway there.”

Macho Whiskey debuted at Gulfstream on April 7, closing in the slop to finish second at six furlongs.

One month later, Macho Whiskey was in closer attendance early and came on for a sharp two-length score over his stablemate Brandyman here at the same distance.

But in his last start, his first around two turns, Macho Whiskey moved to the lead while wide under returning rider Emma-Jayne Wilson only to come up short while beaten 1 1/4 lengths as the 7-5 favorite in a race won by Colleen’s Sailor, who also is back for the Queen’s Plate.

“Our approach was that he was much the best, and Emma gave him a much-the-best trip.

“He wasn’t fit enough, in my opinion. But, his works since then have been very good.”

Wilson will be back aboard Macho Whiskey and his connections were confident enough to ante up a $25,000 supplementary fee on Thursday morning.

Baker saddles three in two turf stakes

Baker also will be represented in two of Sunday’s supporting turf stakes with Fatal Bullet and Bear Tough Tiger entered in the Grade 2, six-furlong Highlander and City Wolf in the Grade 3, 1 1/2-mile Singspiel.

Fatal Bullet, Canada’s Horse of the Year and champion sprinter in 2008, is winless in five starts on turf but did finish a close third in each of the last two runnings of the Grade 2 Play the King at seven furlongs and also was third in the 2010 edition of the Grade 1 Nearctic at six furlongs.

“He’s as good as he was last year,” said Baker, who sent out the 7-year-old gelding to finish third last time out in the off-the-turf 6 1/2-furlong allowance prep for the Connaught Cup.

Bear Tough Tiger, like Fatal Bullet, races for the Bear Stable of Danny Dion but will be making his turf debut in the Highlander.

City Wolf, a 5-year-old Stronach homebred, will be trying turf and traveling beyond 1 1/8 miles for the first time in the Singspiel.

“I thought last year that he was a mile-and-a-half horse, and would like the turf,” said Baker. “But he was going so good on the Poly, I couldn’t run there.”

City Wolf put together a four-race win streak on the main track here in 2011, capped by his first stakes score in the Grade 3 Durham Cup at 1 1/8 miles.

◗ Locally based Eternal Rule, trained by Sid Attard and ridden by Jesse Campbell, was an impressive winner of the $100,000 Karl Boyes Memorial at Presque Isle Downs on Wednesday evening. Eternal Rule, a homebred 4-year-old gelding who races for Don Myers, was recording his fifth win in as many career starts in the six-furlong Boyes Memorial and his 103 Beyer Speed Figure represents a lifetime best.

Queens' Plate (CAN), Post Time: 5:46 CT Saturday

Purse: $1,000,000; 1 1/4 miles

Post

Horse

Trainer

Jockey

ML Odds

1

River Rush

R. Baker

J. McAleney

4-1

1

Peyton

M. Doyle

J. Leparoux

20-1

1

Macho Whiskey

R. Baker

E. Wilson

15-1

1

Strait of Dover

D. Vella

J. Stein

3-1

1

Classic Bryce

D. Banach

T. Kabel

12-1

1

Wilcox

J. Carroll

T. Pizarro

20-1

1

Golden Ridge

M. Casse

L. Contreras

6-1

1

Ultimate Destiny

M. Keogh

S. Bahen

20-1

1

Colleen's Sailor

R. Attfield

C. Nakatani

15-1

1

Dixie Strike

M. Casse

P. Husbands

8-1

1

Making Amends

M. Casse

E. Da Silva

20-1

1

Big Creek

T. Pletcher

R. Dominguez

10-1

1

Washington Dash

D. Miller

R. Maragh

50-1

1

Irish Mission

M. Frostad

A. Solis

10-1