10/17/2012 1:00PM

Woodbine: Excaper lands in tough spot for Friday optional claimer

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Tom Keyser
Excaper is the likely favorite for a second-level optional claimer on the turf Friday at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Grade 1-placed Excaper should be favored in Friday’s Woodbine headliner, but the task at hand may not be easy, with the likes of Valentino Beauty and others in the second-level optional claimer on the grass.

Excaper, a 3-year-old trained by Ian Black, had a promising 2-year-old campaign. He ran second in two important turf stakes, the Grade 3 Summer and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill.

Excaper finished second in his first two outings this year, the Charlie Barley and Toronto Cup stakes. He cleared the first allowance condition traveling a mile here July 29 before going to Saratoga, where he checked in fifth after a wide trip in the Grade 3 Saranac.

Most recently, over nine furlongs in the Grade 3 Kent Stakes at Delaware, Excaper led the way before giving way to just one rival, the pace-pressing Optimizer. The third-place finisher, Two Months Rent, came back to win the Grade 3 Hawthorne Derby at 20-1.

Alex Solis retains the mount on Excaper, who has worked twice since the Sept. 22 Kent.

Valentino Beauty, a 3-year-old gelding by Vindication, is unbeaten in two starts, both on the grass.

Valentino Beauty rallied stoutly from well back to topple $50,000 maidens when he debuted at a mile Sept. 1. Four weeks later, he set slow fractions in a 1 1/16-mile allowance before holding on to defeat Attendant and Laugh Track, who came back to capture an allowance.

Jim McAleney will ride Valentino Beauty again for trainer Barb Minshall.

Go Blue Or Go Home figures to be a speed threat in the one-mile feature as he stretches out off a narrow score in an allowance sprint where he ran greenly in the lane. After graduating first time out over seven furlongs in May, he came up empty as the favorite June 24 in a 1 1/16-mile allowance that contained some salty opposition.

Reade Baker trains Go Blue Or Go Home, who worked five-eighths on the training track in a rapid 58.60 seconds last Saturday.

Canadian Navy was in fine Polytrack form before he rallied strongly to win a seven-furlong allowance on the grass Sept. 21. That race produced two future winners, most notably Gentleman Jackson.

Diamondsdiplomat ships in from Delaware off a front-running score in an allowance on the grass at Penn National. His trainer, Mike Pino, has had lots of success here in recent years.

Rounding out the field are Peyton, Jomelo, and Bear’s Future, who was entered for the main track only.

Bear’s Future is debuting off the $19,000 claim by trainer Scott Fairlie.