08/02/2012 1:25PM

Woodbine: Stunning Stag primed to finally take top spot in Seagram

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Michael Burns
Stunning Stag has finishes second to James Street in the 2011 Seagram.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Stunning Stag, the runner-up in the last two editions, has an excellent chance to capture Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Seagram Cup at Woodbine.

Stunning Stag, who was a bargain $40,000 claim by trainer Sid Attard in 2007, is just $10,565 shy of $1 million in career earnings. He was beaten a head by James Street in last year’s Seagram after closing strongly from off dawdling fractions in the mile and a sixteenth route.

Stunning Stag ran a rare clunker when sixth in his season opener in the Grade 3 Eclipse Stakes. His last two races were on the grass, a surface on which he rarely competes. He finished fourth after making a premature move in a June 16 optional claimer, and then won the seven-furlong Ontario Jockey Club, a stakes for Ontario-breds. Attard noted that none of the OJC entrants had won on the grass before, so it wasn’t surprising to see Stunning Stag prevail.

Attard said Stunning Stag had a valid excuse for coming around slowly this year.

“He lost condition,” Attard explained. “We usually send him to Stronach’s farm, where he would do some jogging in January, but they were fixing it up, so we couldn’t [winter] him there. When I brought him into the track in February, he was heavy and unfit. He’s coming around now.”

Attard said he was pleased with Stunning Stag’s six-furlong breeze in 1:14.80 on the Polytrack last Saturday under jockey Gerry Olguin.

“I said to make sure he does something at the end,” said Attard. “Gerry said he’s in good shape.”

Attard didn’t rule out another trip to Pennsylvania for the Sept. 7 Presque Isle Mile, in which Stunning Stag finished third in each of the past two years.

Pool Play is continuing his comeback in the Seagram. The 7-year-old went to the sidelines for a year after his upset score last year in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill. He wound up fourth when he came off the shelf in the OJC, under Patrick Husbands.

“I was pleasantly surprised with his [comeback],” said trainer Mark Casse. “I thought he would drop back, trail the field, and rally a little bit, but at the top of the lane, I thought he might win. Patrick said he didn’t get bothered, but he got a little intimidated in the last sixteenth of a mile. He said he thought if he’d gotten him to the outside, he might have won. He’s come back and trained well. A mile and a sixteenth is a touch short for him, but he seems to be in good form.”

James Street is winless in three starts since last year’s Seagram, which included a second to City Wolf in the Grade 3 Durham Cup Stakes in October. He was a nonthreatening fifth in his lone outing this year, May 26 in the Eclipse.

The fast 3-year-old Incredicat is exiting two straight seconds in restricted stakes company, and is meeting older opponents for the first time.