06/15/2012 11:35AM

Woodbine: Pender Harbour should benefit from blinkers, class drop in Steady Growth

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario — Pender Harbour drops significantly in class for Sunday’s $125,000 Steady Growth Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile route for Ontario-sired stock at Woodbine.

Pender Harbour garnered the Sovereign Award for Canadian champion 3-year-old last year, during which he swept the final two legs of the Canadian Triple Crown, after finishing third in the Queen’s Plate. He got the winter off after his long 2011 campaign, which ended with a second against older opposition in the Grade 2 Autumn Stakes.

Trainer Mike DePaulo felt that Pender Harbour had his work cut out for him when ninth in his season debut in the 1 1/16-mile Eclipse, a Grade 3 stakes which contained a deep field.

“I thought he ran a decent kind of race,” DePaulo recalled. “He started training at Woodbine in March, and was up against it running against dead-fit, winter-trained horses, some with races under their belt.”

DePaulo said Pender Harbour has blossomed 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-and -a-half horse, but he seems to thrive at longer distances.”

DePaulo was content with Pender Harbour’s five-furlong work on Monday in 1:00.60 on the Polytrack.

“He breezed good,” said DePaulo. “We’re ready to go, with blinkers back on, to sharpen him up a little.”

Good Better Best, a lightly raced 4-year-old trained by Roger Attfield, is making his second start after an extended hiatus.

Good Better Best showed ability on the grass at 2, before winning a nine-furlong allowance over Keeneland’s Polytrack in April 2011. He lost by a scant nose after setting the pace when returning from a 13-month layoff in an optional claimer on the grass here May 26.

Attfield said he was thrilled with Good Better Best’s comeback.

“From where I was sitting, I thought he won it,” Attfield joked. “He was off much longer than he needed to be. When he was at Keeneland as a 3-year-old, there was a big thunderstorm one night. A number of horses hurt themselves in the stalls. He broke a splint bone, and was out for the rest of the year. We took longer bringing him back, because he was at a farm in Ocala.”

Crown’s Path wasn’t an impact player in two appearances at the meet, but is competing over the distance and surface on which he took the restricted Sir Barton Stakes on Nov 30.