Fifty Proof holds off Don Cavallo to win the Eclipse Stakes.

Fifty Proof holds off Don Cavallo to win the Eclipse Stakes.

Michael Burns

Fifty Proof's Best Shot Wins Eclipse Stakes

Upset winner at Woodbine registers first graded win for Kinghaven Farms and partners.

Fifty Proof earned his first graded stakes win when he disposed of odds-on favorite Exhi  on the final turn and held on for a half-length win in the $175,871 Eclipse Stakes (Can-III) at odds of 10-1 at Woodbine May 28 (VIDEO).

One of two in the field for trainer Ian Black, 5-year-old Fifty Proof competed mostly on turf during the past two years, nearly stealing Woodbine's 2010 Northern Dancer Stakes (gr. IT) when second to Redwood at at 29-1 last fall. But the Ontario-bred gelding by Whiskey Wisdom is equally adept on Polytrack, winning three times in five races over the surface.

"He’s still a big, fairly dumb horse, Black said. "Today he was fine. Before today, we were kind of looking at the King Edward (June 25, at one mile on the grass, for his next start). To be perfectly honest, he’s always worked well out here (on Polytrack) but I wasn’t 100 per cent that he was quite as good on the Poly. But he proved today that it doesn’t matter. It was a wonderful performance. I’m very proud of him.”

With regular rider Justin Stein aboard, the imposing Fifty Proof defeated the gaining Don Cavallo and Luis Contreras by a half-length while completing the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:42.56.

Stunning Stag, the 122-pound co-high weight with Exhi, was a length farther back in third for Gerry Olguin, holding on by a neck over the rallying So Elite. The Vigil Stakes (Can-III) winner last month, Stunning Stag's three-race winning streak came to an end. Southdale, attempting to defend his Eclipse victory of a year ago for Black, finished fifth.

Exhi, the 7-10 favorite in the field of six, carved fractions of :24.58 and :47.91 before Fifty Proof, racing in second, took slight advantage after six furlongs in 1:11.42. Exhi dueled around the final turn but gave way in upper stretch and faded to finish last.

Fifty Proof, meanwhile opened a clear lead in the lane and finished well under steady urging. Don Cavalo was all out late to make it fairly close at the wire.

Black trains Fifty Proof for Kinghaven Farms, John Fielding, and Ben Hutzel. Bred by Anderson Farms (Ontario), the chestnut is out of Phi Beta, by Horatius.

Fifty Proof began the year with an optional claiming victory April 22 at seven furlongs by 1 3/4 lengths over the Polytrack. That was his first start since finishing last in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) at Tokyo Racecourse Nov. 28, his only race away from Woodbine. He improved to six wins and three seconds in 12 lifetime starts with earnings of $559,180.

“He was really keen last time. I think he and I were both caught up in the moment. But today, he was a little more focused,” said Stein. “Exhi was emptying out and ‘Fifty’ was just lengthening his stride. But I didn’t want to take any run out of him. I kind of just cruised by (Exhi).”

Sent off as the second-longest shot on the board, the winner carried 116 pounds and paid $22.70, $9.20, and $8. Roger Attfield trainee Don Cavallo, losing for the first time in three starts on the Woodbine Polytrack, returned $9.90 and $7.40 and completed a $174.50 exacta. Stunning Stag, from the Sid Attard barn, was $4 to show.