04/15/2011 11:34AM

Woodbine: Fatal Bullet better prepared for season debut in Jacques Cartier


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Fatal Bullet, the 2008 Canadian Horse of the Year, returns from a winter layoff Sunday at Woodbine in the $150,000 Jacques Cartier Stakes.

Fatal Bullet has been among the leading local sprinters since his memorable 2008 campaign, during which he wound up second in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The now 6-year-old Fatal Bullet failed to find the mark in six starts last year, but managed to finish second in his season opener in the quick Vigil Stakes behind reigning Canadian champion sprinter Hollywood Hit, who has bypassed this six-furlong event.

After ending up third in the Grade 3 Kennedy Road Stakes in November, Fatal Bullet wintered at the Palm Meadows Training Center with trainer Reade Baker.

“I took him down to Florida, and had no intention of running him,” said Baker. “I just wanted to get him ready, and I got him ready. I’m happy with where we’re at with him. He worked [five-eighths] in 58 one time down there. He wasn’t ready to run in this race last year. I wanted to make sure that we were this time.”

Baker blew out Fatal Bullet a quarter-mile in 24.80 on Thursday, five days after the gelding breezed a leisurely five-eighths in 1:02.60 on the training track.

“He worked slowly here,” said Baker. “Through the weather, some of the training track had been washed away. It was quicker than usual, and I don’t think he liked it.”

Baker has secured Luis Contreras for the mount on Fatal Bullet, who was previously ridden by Eurico Da Silva.

“I don’t want him to move too quick,” said Baker. “When you look back at some of his races, he started to make his run at the half-mile pole. I’d like to make it at the two and a half. I don’t think it matters where he is in the race. I think when you ask him to make the final push is what matters.”

The Jacques Cartier has lured just four others, most notably Essence Hit Man and Signature Red.

Essence Hit Man was the leading locally-based 3-year-old sprinter last year, during which he won three stakes and ran second in the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga. He figures to lead the way, with Fatal Bullet and Sports Select in close proximity.

The versatile Signature Red captured the Grade 2 Highlander Stakes over six furlongs on the grass in July.