07/04/2013 5:05PM

Woodbine notes: Baker has four for Highlander Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Fatal Bullet won a six-furlong turf race June 15 that served as a prep for Sunday's Grade 2 Highlander Stakes at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – While the Queen’s Plate is the highlight of Sunday’s card, there will be four other stakes run here that day. Heading the quartet is a pair of Grade 2 turf stakes, the six-furlong Highlander Stakes for 3-year-olds and up and the 1 1/8-mile Dance Smartly Stakes for fillies and mares three and up.

Trainer Reade Baker has entered four horses in the Highlander, including Nearctic prep winner Fatal Bullet, and Go Blue Or Go Home, the winner of the Karl Boyes Memorial at 5 1/2 furlongs on Presque Isle’s Tapeta surface in his most recent start.

Fatal Bullet won the six-furlong turf prep for the Highlander when making his first appearance as an 8-year-old here June 15.

“He came out of the race great,” said Baker, adding that he is not concerned about the three-week turnaround. “He had the winter off.”

Go Blue Or Go Home, a sharp winner of a second-level allowance race at five furlongs on turf at Churchill Downs in November, was making his first start in seven months at Presque Isle.

“We were afraid the prep wouldn’t go and needed to get a start into him for this,” Baker said. “He only ran the last 70 yards.”

Rounding out the Baker quartet are Bear No Joke and Bear Tough Tiger, the sixth- and eighth-place finishers, respectively, here in the May 26 Connaught Cup at seven furlongs on turf.

Bear Tough Tiger finished third behind the victorious Next Question, who is returning to Woodbine for the Highlander, in the Grade 1 Nearctic at six furlongs on turf last fall.

Northern Passion on the fence

Northern Passion, third behind leading Dance Smartly Stakes contenders Solid Appeal and Irish Mission in the Grade 2 Nassau at one mile on turf May 26, came back to defeat fellow Ontario-bred fillies and mares in the Zadracarta at seven furlongs on the same surface here June 15.

And while trainer Mark Casse has entered Northern Passion in Sunday’s Dance Smartly, the 4-year-old is not a definite starter in what looms as a deep and contentious field.

“She trained excellent this morning,” said Casse, who watched Northern Passion gallop over the Polytrack on Thursday. “It would be coming back pretty quickly for her. I’ll see what I think our chances our.”

Fifty Proof looks to right ship

Fifty Proof has been a disappointment this year, finishing off the board in each of his four starts, and will look to get back on track in Sunday’s Grade 3 Singspiel Stakes.

The $150,000 Singspiel is a 1 1/2-mile turf race, and Fifty Proof excelled at that distance in 2010, finishing second in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer and a close fifth in the Grade 1 Canadian International.

Fifty Proof was Canada’s champion older male in 2011 when winning two races on Polytrack and placing in two Grade 2 stakes on turf, but he was away for 16 months before returning to win last December’s restricted Sir Barton at 1 1/16 miles on the main track.

Ian Black, who trains Fifty Proof for David Willmot, John Fielding, and Ben Hutzel, can offer no explanation for the 7-year-old’s diminished potency this year.

“The horse has been training as good as ever through it all,” Black said. “He just hasn’t run any good.”

Fifty Proof tuned up for the Singspiel with a five-furlong breeze in 59.60 seconds on the turf training track here last Sunday with regular rider Justin Stein up.

“When Justin got off him, he said it was the highlight of his day, again,” Black said.

Maritime Pulpit set for debut

Maritime Pulpit, a homebred who races for Hutzel and is trained by Mike DePaulo, will make his first career start Sunday in the Clarendon, a 5 1/2-furlong race for Ontario-bred 2-year-olds.

“The distance might be a little short for him, being a Pulpit,” DePaulo said, “but his mother was very fast.”

Maritime Passion, the dam of Maritime Pulpit, had her career cut short by an injury after just three starts as a 2-year-old, but she won her first two, including the 5 1/2-furlong Shady Well for Ontario-breds, and finished third in the open Ontario Debutante at six furlongs.