06/29/2012 2:14PM

Woodbine: Hunters Bay stretches out in Dominion Day


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Hunters Bay stamped himself as the leading older router at Woodbine when he trounced a quality field in the Grade 3 Eclipse Stakes. He will lengthen out to a mile and a quarter Sunday at Woodbine in the $200,000 Dominion Day Stakes, a Grade 3 stakes which will have just five starters after the scratch of Newsdad.

Hunters Bay showed lots of ability early last year before going to the sidelines. He was second to Pants On Fire when he came off the shelf in a March 3 optional claimer at Gulfstream.

Hunters Bay cleared the third allowance condition in a seven-furlong optional claimer here April 28, and then won the 1 1/16-mile Eclipse by three lengths with a 102 Beyer Figure.

Trainer Reade Baker said Hunters Bay, a 5-year-old by the suddenly hot Ghostzapper, has thrived this year.

“He’s a good horse who’s finally gotten the chance to put some races together,” Baker said. “He never had any major problems. He just had niggling little things.”

Baker felt the stretchout to 10 furlongs will not pose a problem for Hunters Bay.

“I don’t think you could see a lack of stamina in his last race,” Baker said. “He got a good ride, and we expect the same thing. He’s a very nice horse who’s been training really well.”

Pender Harbour, last year’s Canadian champion 3-year-old, spent the winter in Ontario before finishing ninth in the May 26 Eclipse. Most recently, against Ontario-sired foes in the Steady Growth Stakes, Pender Harbour tracked the leading Good Better Best along the rail before drawing clear late to prevail with an 81 Beyer.

“He ran against winter-trained horses in the Eclipse,” trainer Mike DePaulo said. “It’s impossible to run against those guys. I thought he ran a pretty good race last time. He gave [Good Better Best] nine pounds, and he was winter-trained.

“We’re coming back a little quick, but this horse seemed to thrive on that last year. He got better after running back” – two weeks later – “in the Queen’s Plate. He never really ran a bad race after the Triple Crown, except for the [Pennsylvania Derby].”

Straight Story shipped in from the U.S. to beat Pender Harbour after shaking loose on the lead in the Grade 2 Autumn Stakes in November. He faded to seventh after setting the early fractions in his season opener in the Grade 2 Dixie on the grass at Pimlico.

Speed has been effective here lately, and such a bias would play right into the hands of Straight Story, who is trained by Alan Goldberg.

Kentucky-based Stately Victor has a win and two thirds from three Woodbine appearances. Victorious in the 2010 Ontario Derby, he closed belatedly for third in last year’s Dominion Day. He is coming off back-to-back seconds in optional-claiming company at Keeneland and Arlington.