Woodbine Polytrack specialist Stunning Stag makes his third attempt at winning the $150,000 Eclipse Stakes (Can-III) in the seasonal debut for Janice and Sid Attard's 8-year-old May 26.
Stunning Stag, who will have regular rider Gerry Olguin at the controls in the 1 1/16-mile Eclipse, finished third in the race last year following a runner-up effort in 2010. The Ontario-bred gelding by Running Stag has made 31 starts in his career, 28 of them coming over Woodbine's Polytrack. He has 10 lifetime wins and 15 placings with career earnings of $922,853.
Trained by Sid Attard for his wife, Janice, Stunning Stag last raced in the Nov. 12 Autumn Stakes (Can-II), finishing third in a race he won in 2010. His only win in five starts last year came by three lengths in the seven-furlong Vigil Stakes (Can-III) prior to the Eclipse.
Stunning Stag, to carry co-high weight of 120 pounds, is one of 11 entered in the Eclipse, the eighth race on Woodbine's Saturday program with a 4:49 p.m. EDT post.
Also toting 120 is Eugene Melnyk's homebred James Street , making his first start since running fifth in last fall's Autumn. Trained by Josie Carroll, the 5-year-old son of El Prado won three of nine starts in 2011, including Woodbine's 1 1/16-mile Seagram Cup (Can-III) last summer.
Pender Harbour, who won two-thirds of the Canadian Triple Crown last season following a third-place finish in the Queen's Plate, ran second in the Autumn in his most recent start. Trained by Michael DePaulo, the 4-year-old by Philanthropist has banked $953,020 while winning five of 11 career starts.
Owned by Denny Andrews, Sandra Lazaruk, and Rob and Roberta Giffin, Pender Harbour, last year's Canadian 3-year-old male champion, will race without blinkers.
“You look back at everything he did and it really is impressive,” said DePaulo, of the gelding, who was also a finalist for Horse of the Year honors. “He wasn’t ready to run in the Plate, but he gave a gutsy effort. Those two Triple Crown races he won, those were both fantastic. He won races on dirt (2011 Prince of Wales), Polytrack (2010 Kingarvie) and turf (2011 Breeders’ and Bunty Lawless). He could have gone backwards after the Plate, but he went forward instead.”
Stronach Stables' City Wolf also comes out of the Autumn, in which he was eighth as the 13-10 favorite. The 5-year-old homebred son of Giant's Causeway rattled off four straight wins prior to that, including the Durham Cup (Can-III) last October.
The Eclipse field includes the 2009 Queen's Plate winner, Sam-Son Farms' Eye of the Leopard , trained by Malcolm Pierce. The 6-year-old A.P. Indy horse has had one start in 2012, finishing a distant fifth in the Ben Ali Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland April 22.
Others in the Eclipse field that competed in last year's Queen's Plate are Charles Fipke's homebred Check Your Soul, who was seventh as the favorite for trainer Roger Attfield, and Mill House's Queen'splatekitten, who ran fifth. Runner-up in a Keeneland allowance on turf April 14, the Kitten's Joy colt represents trainer Todd Pletcher.
Lothenbach Stables' homebred Mister Marti Gras, a multiple graded winner, makes his Woodbine debut for trainer Chris Block following a third-place effort in the Charles Town Classic (gr. II) April 14.
$150,000 Eclipse Stakes (Can-III, Race 8, 4:49 p.m.), 4 & Up, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Check Your Soul (ON), A O Solis, 118, R L Attfield
2. Stunning Stag (ON), G Olguin, 120, S C Attard
3. Pender Harbour (ON), L Contreras, 118, M P De Paulo
4. Queen'splatekitten (ON), C P DeCarlo, 118, T A Pletcher
5. Hunters Bay (KY), E Wilson, 116, R Baker
6. James Street (KY), J Stein, 120, J Carroll
7. Eye of the Leopard (ON), E R Da Silva, 116, M Pierce
8. Mister Marti Gras (KY), J M Campbell, 118, C M Block
9. Hothersal (ON), P Husbands, 116, M E Casse
10. Alpha Bettor (KY), T Pizarro, 116, D J Vella
11. City Wolf (KY), E Wilson, 118, R Baker
Blinkers Off: Pender Harbour