Kentucky Bear might have been shut out of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) by a lack of graded-stakes earnings, but the colt is now pointed toward the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) May 17 at Pimlico Race Course.
The son of Mr. Greeley, unraced at 2, is trained by Canada-based Reade Baker, who has been high on the horse most of this year. The chestnut colt is owned by Bear Stables, the nom de course of Donny (Bear) Dion, a former lumberjack who lives in Bonnyville, Alberta, Canada.
The Dion family includes Donny’s wife, Gwen, and their children Darcy, Evan, and Jeff. Dion is president and owner of Bear Slashing Ltd., an oil exploration and mulching business operating in Western Canada. He founded the company in 1988. It’s now the largest mulching company in the world and employs some 200 people.
Dion got his start in racing about six years ago with a low-level claiming horse and had very little success.
The racing stable is named after Dion’s nickname, which he reportedly got because he used to growl like a bear when he hoisting big logs. All of the Bear Stable horses have Bear in their names.
Dion races at Woodbine Race Course with Baker, and in Western Canada with trainer Dale Greenwood. His best horse in 2007 was Bear Now, who won the grade II Fitz Dixon Cotillion Stakes at Philadelphia Park on the way to an eighth-place finish in the Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I).
Kentucky Bear’s entry in the Preakness, marks Bear Stable’s first encounter with an American classic race. Kentucky Bear will also be Baker’s first starter in the Preakness.
In 2002, Baker was elected to the Jockey Club of Canada. In 2005, Baker won his first Sovereign Award as Canada’s leading trainer and his trainee, Judiths Wild Rush, was named the country’s top sprinter. The horse repeated the next year. Other recent stakes winners for Baker include Coy Coyote, Slew Valley, Vestry Lady, Bear’s Kid, Bear Holiday, and Bear Now.
The road Kentucky Bear has traveled to the Preakness is a pretty short one. The chestnut colt broke his maiden by 6 ½ lengths going one-mile at Gulfstream Park in January. He then stepped up to graded-stakes company in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) where he tackled a tough field and finished unplaced.
His next effort was indeed a bear. In his third career start and his first on Polytrack, Kentucky Bear finished third, beaten 1 ½ lengths, in the grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
Bred in Kentucky by Alexander Valley Breeders, Kentucky Bear was produced from the stakes winning Afleet mare Tate.
Kentucky Bear has one win and one third-place finish in three career starts. He has earned $100,200.