11/14/2011 2:50PM

Woodbine: City Wolf disappoints

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Michael Burns
Straight Story, with Jesse Campbell riding, wins the Autumn at 38-1. City Wolf ran eighth.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Reade Baker also sent out the favored City Wolf in search of his fifth straight win here in this past Saturday’s $161,600 Autumn, only to watch the 4-year-old colt finish eighth of 10 under regular rider Emma-Jayne Wilson.

“I thought I had a better chance to win a stakes than at any time in my career,” said Baker, who trains the Kentucky homebred City Wolf for Stronach Stable.

“But the race ended up being a speed-rail race. He comes from behind and was stuck on the outside, and he seemed to fight Emma more this time than previously.”

The Grade 3 Valedictory, the 1 3/4-mile closing-day feature here Dec. 4, rounds out the stakes program for older horses, but City Wolf is an unlikely participant.

“I don’t think you’ll see him again this year,” said Baker.

Straight Story steps up

Straight Story had looked like a fish out of water heading into the Autumn, as the New York-bred 5-year-old was making his first start on a synthetic surface after racing exclusively on turf since the spring of 2009.

But when the latch was sprung, Straight Story went straight to the front under jockey Jesse Campbell and never looked back en route to a 1 3/4-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile stakes as the longest shot on the board at 38-1.

“I just thought he would like it,” said Alan Goldberg, of the decision to try Straight Story on Polytrack in his 22nd career appearance.

Goldberg recalled that when Straight Story came to Woodbine for a start in the Woodbine Mile, “he trained on it a couple of times and seemed to get over it pretty well.”

Straight Story, who is owned by Richard Santulli, had finished last of 13 in the Woodbine Mile but was back in the zone this May, recording his first open stakes win in the Grade 3 Fort Marcy over 1 1/16 miles on turf at Belmont.

A string of three disappointing efforts followed, however, as Straight Story finished sixth of nine in Belmont’s Grade 1 Manhattan, last of seven in Monmouth’s Grade 3 Oceanport, and seventh of eight in Belmont’s restricted Ashley Cole.

“His last three races were a little weird,” said Goldberg, who had watched Straight Story’s score from his base at Colts Neck Stable in New Jersey. “He had excuses for all three.

“Two were run in bogs, and the other time we tried to take him off the pace, which he didn’t like.”

Goldberg was recording his first win with just his sixth career starter here, with his best previous result having been a second-place finish with Strike A Deal in the 2008 running of the Grade 2 Nijinsky.

Meanwhile, Straight Story was back on the farm in New Jersey on Sunday afternoon with his first Grade 2 victory and a $90,000 winner’s prize, his largest to date.

“I may just put him away, until next year,” said Goldberg, who will be campaigning in Philadelphia while sending a number of his charges to Ocala, Fla., for the winter.

Pender Harbour rebounds some

The Autumn also represented a moral victory for the 3-year-old Pender Harbour, who recorded his first graded stakes placing after winning the Queen’s Plate, Prince of Wales, and Bunty Lawless.

“He beat the best older horses stabled here at Woodbine,” said Mike DePaulo, who trains Pender Harbour for Denny Andrews, Sandra Lazaruk, and Bob and Roberta Giffins.

“I was delighted. He ran a monster race.”

Pender Harbour now has banked $840,400 in his eight-start campaign. And, while he will not necessarily be participating, the gelding is nominated to the $125,000 Sir Barton, a 1 1 1/16 mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward here Nov. 30.