11/08/2012 2:45PM

Woodbine: Star Contender looks sharp for Coronation bid

Michael Burns
Star Contender won his last outing, the $250,000 Cup and Saucer Stakes, by 3 1/4 lengths.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Does anybody really want to win the $250,000 Coronation Futurity? Sure, the money’s good, but the nine-furlong route for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds hasn’t produced a high-class winner since A Bit O’Gold in 2003. And the last horse to capture the Coronation along the following year’s Queen’s Plate was Norcliffe in 1975-76.

Star Contender should be favored in the 109th running of the Coronation on Saturday at Woodbine. He rallied for third behind his more experienced stablemates Dynamic Sky and Honorable Guest when he debuted over 6 1/2 furlongs in the restricted Simcoe Stakes on Sept. 3.

Three weeks later, Star Contender graduated in workmanlike fashion under Patrick Husbands in a mile and 70-yard maiden special that was taken off the turf. He won his last outing comfortably, the $250,000 Cup and Saucer Stakes, scoring by 3 1/4 lengths over 1 1/16 miles of yielding turf.

“He’s a really nice horse,” said trainer Mark Casse. “I didn’t necessarily think his [Sept. 23] race was a true indication of his ability. He got the job done. Patrick said he was playing around.”

Trainer Malcolm Pierce entered Up With the Birds and His Race to Win, two sons of Stormy Atlantic owned by Sam-Son Farm.

Up With the Birds graduated second time out in 1 1/16-mile maiden special Sept. 29, and has been aimed towards the Coronation ever since.

“I worked them together last week, and Up With the Birds handled His Race to Win by a couple of lengths at the wire,” said Pierce. “At this stage of his life, I think he’s the better horse on the Poly. He’s training well. We’re really happy with the way he’s doing. It looks like the distance is within his range.”

Pierce said he hadn’t initially intended on entering the maiden His Race to Win, but opted to because of the small six-horse field. He said the horse may not start, a decision that will be made on race day.

“He might be a better turf horse next year,” said Pierce.

His Race to Win chased Star Contender home in his last two excursions, finishing second in a maiden race and fourth in the Cup and Saucer.

There are two other maidens in the lineup, Kitten Candy and Bookies Nightmare.

Kitten Candy, a son of Candy Ride, is stretching out off a third in a seven-furlong maiden special.

Bookies Nightmare has checked in fourth in two maiden special routes since being claimed from his debut for $32,000.

Hesa Big Dude could be the pacemaker. He won his six-furlong debut on the dirt at Fort Erie Oct. 16.