04/20/2011 11:26AM

Woodbine: Fifty Proof starting year on main track


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Fifty Proof, one of the leading grass runners at Woodbine, will make his season debut over seven furlongs on the Polytrack in Friday’s fourth race, a second-level allowance-optional claimer.

Fifty Proof was in solid allowance form before finishing a close second in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer Turf last September. He set a tepid pace in that 1 1/2-mile event before giving way grudgingly to the sharp European shipper Redwood.

Fifty Proof went on to finish fifth after leading the way in the Grade 1 Canadian International. He has been idle since trailing an 18-horse field in the Nov. 28 Japan Cup.

Trainer Ian Black said Fifty Proof simply couldn’t keep up in the Group 1 Japan Cup.

“It was a pretty strongly run race,” Black recalled. “He showed speed, and turning for home, he came up a little empty and got beat a long way. The Japanese have proven over and over again that it’s a pretty tough race, and to fly halfway around the world to run against them isn’t an easy task.”

Black said Fifty Proof exited the Japan Cup in good order, and was subsequently shipped to the Payson Park training center in Florida.

“He was off until the new year,” Black said. “He trained down there, and then went to Keeneland, where he had two works on the Poly. I think he’s fit enough. He’s had two good five-eighths [works].”

Black felt Friday’s race is a good launching point for Fifty Proof, who fared okay on Polytrack in restricted company in the past.

“It’s an opportunity to get a start into him before grass racing starts, to see how he handles the Poly,” Black explained. “It could open up some options for him in some of those Ontario-sired stakes.”

Delaforce, competing with a $60,000 claiming price, is the lone entrant up for sale. He missed all of 2010, and was a fading sixth when he came off the sidelines in a recent $50,000 claimer at Gulfstream.

Chief Counsel has been idle since ending up third as the heavy favorite in the Aug. 2 Manitoba Derby. He captured a first-level allowance route here in June of last year.

Officeinthevalley, the 2010 Vice Regent Stakes winner, and Sangore are also starting for the first time this year.

Raging Star sprang a 16-1 upset in a five-furlong allowance April 3. He is a two-time winner over seven furlongs.