Fifty Proof wins the Sir Barton Stakes.

Fifty Proof wins the Sir Barton Stakes.

Michael Burns

Fifty Proof Returns With Sharp Sir Barton Win

Canadian champion older horse overcomes 16-month layoff with front-running tally.

Favored Fifty Proof, Canada’s champion older male of 2011, returned from 16-month layoff to take the $127,321 Sir Barton Stakes (VIDEO) in front-running style at Woodbine Dec. 2.

Trained by Ian Black and ridden by Justin Stein, Fifty Proof had not competed since a second-place effort in the Nijinsky Stakes (Can-IIT) July 24, 2011. The 17-10 choice in the field of 12 Ontario-breds ran the 1 1/16-mile distance in a swift 1:43.46 over the Polytrack while defeating Head Honcho by 1 1/4 lengths.

Sidelined with a soft tissue injury, the 6-year-old Whiskey Wisdom gelding was patiently conditioned by Black for his return before supplementing him to the Sir Barton at a cost of $3,000. Kinghaven Farms, John Fielding, and Ben Hutzel own the chestnut gelding bred by Anderson Farms. Fifty Proof is out of the Horatius mare Phi Beta.

Fifty Proof set reserved splits of :24.39, :48.38, and 1:12.36 with Moonlit Beauty, taking on boys for the first time, stalking from second position.

Head Honcho and Bobcaygeon rallied from off the pace through the turn, but a resolute Fifty Proof quickened to open up a 3 1/2-length advantage. He cruised home under a light drive from Stein. Head Honcho finished gamely for place money, 2 1/2 lengths over Bobcaygeon.

Black was pleased with the return effort of the sizable chestnut.

“He was just good enough that he didn’t have to be (at his best), but they ran really fast too,” said Black. “He’s a very good horse, that’s the bottom line.”

Fifty Proof, who captured the Eclipse (Can-III) over the Polytrack to help secure Sovereign honors last year, is expected to head south for the winter months to continue his 2012 campaign.

“He’ll go to Florida soon and we’ll look at some turf races,” said Black. “He’s trained on the dirt, but he’s never run on it. He’s a very good ‘Poly’ horse, but he loves the turf.”

Fifty Proof banked $75,428 victory, improving his record to seven wins and five seconds from 15 career starts with earnings of $771,276.

He paid $5.50, $3.90 and $3.30, combining with Head Honcho ($8.50, $5) for a $59.70 exacta. Bobcaygeon returned $4.10 to show.