08/23/2013 8:19AM

Woodbine: Go Blue Or Go Home back to turf prepping for Woodbine Mile

Coady Photography
Go Blue Or Go Home (right) has won his last three races by a combined total of 11 1/4 lengths.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Go Blue Or Go Home established himself as one of Woodbine’s leading sprinters with a dominating score on the main track in the Grade 3 Highlander Stakes. He goes back to the turf Sunday in the $200,000 Play the King, a seven-furlong stakes which serves as the prep for next month’s $1 million Woodbine Mile.

The Reade Baker-trained Go Blue Or Go Home has won his last three races by a combined total of 11 1/4 lengths. He covered five furlongs on the grass at Churchill in a rapid 56.77 seconds in capturing a second-level allowance Nov. 8.

After a winter break, Go Blue Or Go Home manhandled a decent field in the $100,000 Karl Boyes Memorial Stakes at Presque Isle Downs on June 10. His last race, the six-furlong Highlander July 7, was moved from the grass to the Polytrack at the last minute following heavy rain, and he ended up leading all the way over a surface that was suddenly kind to speed.

Baker said he wouldn’t have minded seeing the Highlander remain on the soggy turf.

“I was a little disappointed, because the best race of his life was at Churchill going five-eighths over soft turf,” Baker said. “He went head and head with a horse. Turning for home, he bobbled and slipped. His hind end went out from under him, and it looked like he was going down, but he still went that fast. I thought it was a pretty incredible race.”

Jesse Campbell has the mount on Go Blue Or Go Home, who possesses tactical speed.

“He doesn’t have to be on the lead,” Baker said. “He’s a very rateable horse.”

Riding the River, last year’s champion turf male in Canada, finished second in the past two runnings of the Grade 2 Play the King. He began this season on a high note with a second in the Grade 2 Connaught Cup, and then posted a gutsy victory in the Grade 2 King Edward Stakes.

Riding the River ran a rare clunker last time when he was a fading seventh in the Grade 2 Nijinsky Stakes.

“He got knocked off stride,” said trainer Dave Cotey. “He got hit twice, actually. He’s coming into this race in pretty good order.”

Apprentice Skye Chernetz inherits the mount on Riding the River from Todd Kabel, who has jumped ship to Valentino Beauty.

“I have no problem riding her,” said Cotey. “She works him, and gets on him pretty much every day. She’s got nice hands. She’ll sit behind and make a run at them.”

After a flat fourth in the Connaught Cup, Valentino Beauty gave Riding the River all that he could handle when second in the one-mile King Edward. He failed stay about nine furlongs in the Nijinsky, winding up fifth after a stalking trip.

There are five shippers in the 13-horse field: Artest, Dimension, Night Officer, Upgrade, and Triple Cross, who was supplemented for $4,000.

Saratoga-based Michelle Nihei trains Artest and Upgrade, who was third in both the Connaught Cup and in the Jacques Cartier Stakes here in April.