10/22/2012 1:16PM

Woodbine notes: Pender Harbour eyes Autumn Stakes after Bunty Lawless win

Michael Burns
Pender Harbour wins the Bunty Lawless Stakes by 2 1/2 lengths at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Media attention, such as it is around these parts, was focused on Chantal Sutherland’s unexpected retirement following Sunday’s running of the $126,200 Bunty Lawless Stakes.

But trainer Mike DePaulo, who trains Pender Harbour, was happy to cede the spotlight and take the money after his hard-knocking 4-year-old gelding captured the one-mile turf race by an emphatic 2 1/2 lengths under regular rider Luis Contreras.

“He’s just been a solid horse for us,” said DePaulo, who trains Pender Harbour for Albertans Denny Andrews, Sandra Lazaruk, and Bob and Roberta Giffin. “He shows up every time.”

Pender Harbour was repeating in the Bunty Lawless and making his first start since finishing fourth here in the Grade 2 Sky Classic, a 1 1/4-mile turf race won by subsequent Northern Dancer and Canadian International third-place finisher Forte dei Marmi.

“He ran a good race to Forte dei Marmi,” DePaulo said. “That was a good frame of reference.”

And while Pender Harbour seemed to face a considerably easier assignment against his Ontario-sired peers in the Bunty Lawless, DePaulo was concerned about his charge’s 126-pound impost.

“I know he carried 126 pounds in the Triple Crown races last year,” said DePaulo, who sent out Pender Harbour to finish third in the Queen’s Plate and then capture the Prince of Wales and Breeders’. “But he was giving quite a lot of weight to the other horses on Sunday.”

Pender Harbour now has compiled a record of 8-2-2 and earnings of more than $1.28 million from 18 starts, and he should get a chance to add to those totals before the meeting here winds up Dec. 16.

“We’ll nominate him to the Autumn and take a look,” DePaulo said. “And, of course, the Sir Barton’s on the radar.”

The Grade 2, $150,000 Autumn will be run over 1 1/16 miles of Polytrack here Nov. 10, with the $125,000 Sir Barton, over the same distance and surface but for Ontario-sired horses, set for Dec. 2.

Casse gets 19th stakes win of meet

Trainer Mark Casse is at Churchill Downs, putting the finishing touches on his five potential Breeders’ Cup entrants before they fly out for Los Angeles on Oct. 28.

But his assistants David Adams and Kathryn Sullivan are keeping the home fires burning as Star Contender became the barn’s 19th stakes winner of the meeting in last Saturday’s $250,400 Coronation Futurity.

Star Contender, bred by Bill Graham, sold for $80,000 at the select local yearling sale and was making his third start and turf and stakes debut in the 1 1/16-mile Cup and Saucer for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds.

Owned by John Oxley, Star Contender had finished third behind stablemates Dynamic Sky and Honorable Guest when debuting in the 6 1/2-furlong Simcoe, a yearling sales stakes for colts and geldings, and then won his maiden in an off-the-turf race over a mile and 70 yards.

In the Cup and Saucer, Star Contender stalked the pace from between horses, moved to the lead with three-sixteenths of a mile to run, and then was headed before battling back in the final furlong to score by 3 1/4 lengths under rider Patrick Husbands.

Several horses were involved in a chain reaction of bumping at the head of the stretch in the Cup and Saucer, and Justin Stein, rider of third-place finisher Tormenta Fiera, claimed foul against both Star Contender and runner-up Tex.

The stewards, who had posted their own inquiry, reversed the placings of Tex and Tormenta Fiera, a decision that Tex’s trainer, Brian Lynch, has appealed.

Star Contender was held blameless.

“He’s a really, really talented horse,” Casse said. “He may be as good as any 2-year-old we have right now. He’s still very green; you saw it on Saturday. Patrick had to fight with him a little. He just wanted to get going.”

Star Contender is slated to make his next start here Nov. 10 in the Coronation Futurity, a 1 1/8-mile Polytrack race for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds.

“He came out [Saturday’s] race in good order,” Casse said. “He’s a big horse and a beautiful-moving horse. He reminds me a lot of Delegation. He’ll get better as he gets older.”

Delegation is slated to make his next start in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Star Contender was Casse’s meet-leading 19th stakes winner and the meet-leading 18th for Patrick Husbands, with 15 of those having come in tandem.

And Casse has candidates for three of the five stakes races scheduled for next weekend, with Indian Pond and Silent Moon eyeing Saturday’s $100,000 River Memories, Nahima slated to make her local debut in Sunday’s $250,000 Princess Elizabeth, and Dixie Strike on target to return in the $175,000 Maple Leaf.

Nahima, purchased privately in France this summer, has raced twice, winning her second outing over 6 1/2 furlongs of Polytrack at Deauville.

“We’ve had her for a couple of weeks and breezed her a couple of times,” said Casse, who trains Nahima for Gary Barber. “She’s breezed well.”

The Princess Elizabeth, a 1 1/16-mile race, is for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies.

Dixie Strike, third last time out in the Grade 1 Cotillion over 1 1/16 miles at Park Racing, will be traveling 1 1/4 miles in the Maple Leaf for fillies and mares.

“She breezed real well up there Sunday,” said Casse, noting that Dixie Strike had been clocked in 1:00.80.

Casse also has nominated Sky Dreamer and Sky High Lady to the Maple Leaf and is not ruling out an appearance by one or both 3-year-old fillies.

Indian Pond, coming off a fifth-place finish here in the Grade 2 Canadian over 1 1/8 miles of turf, would be shortening up and dropping in class for the River Memories, a one-mile overnight turf stakes for fillies and mares that would require a field of at least five to be carded.

Uncaptured works at Churchill

Uncaptured, winner of his first four starts, all for Casse and Oxley, before finishing fifth as the odds-on choice when stretching out for the 1 1/16-mile Grey here Oct. 7, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.20 at Churchill Downs on Sunday.

“He worked really well on the dirt,” Casse said. “I think we’re going to run him here in the Iroquois on opening day.”

The Oct. 28 Iroquois, a one-mile race for 2-year-olds, offers Grade 3 status and a purse of $100,000. Uncaptured was not among the original nominees and would have to be supplemented at a cost of $5,000.