06/24/2011 12:39PM

Woodbine: Signature Red eyes repeat in Highlander Stakes

Michael Burns
Signature Red will be looking to defend his title in Sunday’s Grade 2 Highlander Stakes at Woodbine.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Sid Attard will take two shots at Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Highlander Stakes, when he runs Signature Red and Jungle Wave in the six-furlong turf sprint on the Queen’s Plate undercard at Woodbine.

Signature Red captured last year’s Highlander after pressing the pace, registering a 100 Beyer Speed Figure in his first stakes triumph. He is winless since then, but has hit the board in each of his four most recent outings, all on Polytrack.

Most recently, Signature Red was a non-threatening third in the Grade 3 Vigil Stakes.

“He’s in good shape right now,” Attard said. “He’s been going good, too. He’s much better on the turf.”

Jungle Wave finished a close third in last year’s Highlander. In fact, he has cracked the top three in each of his last seven outings, but is without a victory since the Grade 2 Play the King Stakes in August 2009.

“He got beat three times last year by my other horses,” Attard pointed out. “I think he [prefers] the turf.”

Stormy Lord could go favored in the event off his front-running tally in the Grade 2 Connaught Cup Stakes, which was run over a very soggy turf course.

Trainer Ian Black said he thought Stormy Lord would thrive under the trying conditions in the seven-furlong Connaught, because of his strong showing in last year’s Breeders’ Stakes.

“He just got beat on the soft going in the Breeders’, when he didn’t want to go a mile and a half,” Black recalled. “He’s a light horse, and I thought he’d get over it pretty good.”

Black is confident that Stormy Lord will handle the turnback in distance.

“We’ve never really asked him to sprint,” Black said. “Last year, we thought he might be a Queen’s Plate horse, and then we settled for the turf. We were always trying to stretch him. I think he’ll be pretty effective sprinting.”

The Maryland-based 9-year-old Heros Reward gets full marks for participation in the Highlander. He finished second in 2007, first in 2008, third in 2009, and a close second last year.

Essence Hit Man, who was supplemented at a cost of $4,000, figures to lead the way. He was only an early factor in his lone turf excursion two years ago at 2.

Riding the River, an impressive 6 for 8 lifetime, rallied between opponents to win a six-furlong optional claimer three weeks ago in his grass debut.