10/11/2013 10:43AM

Woodbine: Phil's Dream sharp for Nearctic


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Phil’s Dream has done no wrong after working fast before a race. He will try to keep his roll going Sunday at Woodbine in the Grade 1, $300,000 Nearctic, a six-furlong turf sprint that is the final Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In qualifier.

Phil’s Dream is owned and trained by Paul Buttigieg, who won the 1998 Nearctic with Rushiscomingup. He also finished a close third in the 2011 Nearctic with another 5-year-old gelding, Gypsy Ring.

Phil’s Dream has won 5 of 7 starts this year at 5. He worked slowly prior to his only flat effort at the meet, a fourth in the Shepperton Stakes.

“He’s gotta work fast to run any good,” Buttigieg said. “He likes working fast.”

Phil’s Dream beat a modest field of Ontario-sired allowance runners in June in his only turf start. He notched his first stakes win in the restricted Overskate on Sept. 22 and breezed five furlongs in a bullet 59.20 seconds on Oct. 5.

Among his opponents is the speedy Excaper, who was softened up in a pace duel in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile and ended up trailing in the six-horse field. He was previously second in the Grade 2 Play the King Stakes, which came after an optional-claiming score in another seven-furlong sprint.

Trainer Ian Black said he’s not convinced that Excaper needs the lead, especially going six furlongs. Excaper’s only start at six furlongs came on Polytrack when he won his debut.

“It’s a different ballgame,” Black said. “I don’t know how the race will set up. He only ever ran three-quarters once, first-time out on the Poly. He ran really quick three-quarter-miles in those two seven-eighths races.”

The four American shippers in the field are Longhunter, Mr. Online, Strong Impact, and Tripski.

Longhunter captured his last race in the Kentucky Downs Turf Dash, which came over six furlongs. He was claimed for just $16,000 in April by trainer Mike Maker on behalf of Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

The former Woodbine runner Mr. Online is coming off a neck loss to Ben’s Cat in the six-furlong Laurel Dash.

Strong Impact would prefer firm ground, which he got while capturing the Fiddlers Patriot Stakes at Saratoga on July 21.

Tripski is jumping up off a fifth-place finish in an optional claimer at Saratoga, from which he was claimed for $62,500 by trainer Chad Brown.

Trainer Reade Baker entered three Bear Stable runners: Fatal Bullet, Bear No Joke, and Bear Tough Tiger.

Fatal Bullet won an open six-furlong allowance on the grass in June. The 8-year-old has been idle since ending up fourth July 7 in the Grade 3 Highlander Stakes.

Riding the River, Canada’s champion grass runner in 2012, rallied belatedly for fourth in the Sept. 15 Woodbine Mile.