05/24/2012 11:27AM

Woodbine: Pender Harbour back in action in Eclipse Stakes

Michael Burns
Pender Harbour will make his first start as a 4-year-old in Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Eclipse Stakes.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Pender Harbour, last year’s Canadian champion 3-year-old, returns from a six-month layoff Saturday at Woodbine in the Grade 3, $150,000 Eclipse Stakes.

Pender Harbour captured two-thirds of the 2011 Canadian Triple Crown, the Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie and the Breeders’ Stakes here on the grass. He also finished third in the Queen’s Plate and was second against older opposition in the Grade 2 Autumn Stakes, over the Eclipse distance of 1 1/16 miles. His only poor stakes performance came in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby, when he threw a fit in the gate.

Pender Harbour wintered in Ontario, which trainer Mike DePaulo figures will be a disadvantage for the son of Philanthropist.

“We’re up against winter-trained horses who might have a race or two under their belt,” DePaulo pointed out. “He’s been training real well, but training and racing are two different things. He hasn’t run in six months, so we need to start him somewhere. We get a little break in the weights.”

DePaulo said Pender Harbour has blossomed this year from a physical standpoint.

“He matured a little from 2 to 3, but he’s really gotten bigger from 3 to 4,” DePaulo explained. “He’s a blocky-looking guy. He looks more like a sprinter than a mile-and0-a-half horse, but he seems to thrive at longer distances. He’s like one of those throwback horses. The more you do with him, the better he gets. We had to really rush him to get to the Plate, and you would think that would have knocked him out, but it didn’t. He’s a very good horse.”

Trainer Roger Attfield entered last year’s Plate Trial winner Check Your Soul, who was a well-beaten favorite in the 2011 Queen’s Plate.

Check Your Soul returned from a nine-month break to finish eighth in a nine-furlong allowance on the grass April 14 at Keeneland.

“He needed that race, for sure,” Attfield said.

Eye of the Leopard, the 2009 Queen’s Plate winner, also returned to action at Keeneland, where he finished a distant fifth behind runaway winner Wise Dan in the Grade 3 Ben Ali. That was his first start for trainer Malcolm Pierce.

James Street and City Wolf have both been idle since missing the board in the Nov. 12 Autumn Stakes.

James Street was second to City Wolf in the Grade 3 Durham Cup Stakes last year, after notching the Grade 3 Seagram Cup Stakes over Stunning Stag in August.

City Wolf capped a four-race win streak in the Durham Cup, for which he got a 96 Beyer.

Reade Baker trains City Wolf and Hunters Bay, who won a seven-furlong optional claimer by four lengths here April 28. He was previously second to Pants On Fire in another third-level optional claimer, which was on the dirt at Gulfstream.

Grade 2 stakes winner Stunning Stag also has been laid up since the Autumn, in which he wound up third in his worst performance of 2011.