Last year's Neartic winner Field Commission faces 11 challengers in 2010.

Last year's Neartic winner Field Commission faces 11 challengers in 2010.

Michael Burns

Plenty of Options in 12-Horse Nearctic Stakes

Field Commission defends his title, but Woodbine's new grade I is awfully tough.

Winless in seven starts since taking last year's Nearctic Stakes (Can-IT), Field Commission  will face a much more difficult task in this year's renewal when he faces 11 rivals in the $500,000 turf event at Woodbine Oct. 16.

In what shapes up as an outstanding betting race, this year's entrants include a pair of last-out group II winners from Europe, the German-bred colt Amico Fritz and the Great Britain-based Balthazaar's Gift; local grade II victors Signature Red  and Grand Adventure; and 2008 Canadian Horse of the Year Fatal Bullet, who showed a liking for the turf in his last start.

Also in the field is the 3-year-old Bridgetown, unbeaten this year, and Woodbourne, cutting back in distance after a strong third in the Woodbine Mile (Can-IT) last month.

The Nearctic, improved to a grade I this season, is followed by two other "Win and You're In" races on the Woodbine program for this year's Breeders' Cup, the $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes (gr. IT) and the $2 million Pattison Canadian International (gr. IT). The winner of the Nearctic, the eighth on the card with a 4:23 p.m. EDT post, gains entry into the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IIT) Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs.

Field Commission was extremely game in winning last year's race by 1 1 /2 lengths, overcoming traffic problems in the stretch to power home over Bogue Chitto, who is also in this year's Nearctic. The 5-year-old Ontario-bred son of Service Stripe is winless since for trainer Dan Vella, though he has recorded three seconds and a third during the losing streak. He never got into gear in his last start, however, the seven-furlong Play the King Stakes (Can-IIT) Aug. 29, and trailed at every call.

Javier Castellano will try his luck with Field Commission, who drew the rail for the third consecutive start.

Million-dollar earner Fatal Bullet set a strong pace in the Play the King, which was just his second start on grass, and fought hard before finishing third while beaten by a half-length for it all. Bear Stables' 5-year-old Red Bullet gelding hasn't won in four starts this year but hasn't been out of the money either, and could be sitting on a big race. Fatal Bullet is a nine-time winner in 19 starts and trainer Reade Baker will have regular rider Eurico Da Silva aboard.

Melnyk Racing Stable's 3-year-old Bridgetown is two-for-two in 2010. The son of Speightstown  won Woodbine's Summer Stakes (Can-IIIT) last fall prior to running a game second to Pounced in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT).

Bridgetown is coming off a triumph in Monmouth Park's Gilded Time Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs Sept. 6 for trainer Ken McPeek. He also won a restricted stakes on yielding ground over the same distance at Saratoga prior to that. He boasts four victories in seven lifetime starts with two seconds.

There are three horses in the field making their North American debuts: Amico Fritz, Balthazaar's Gift and Serious Attitude, a grade I winner in Great Britain at 2 trying to regain his best form.

Balthazaar's Gift, a 7-year-old Irish-bred son Xaar owned by Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, won the seven-furlong Eddie Stobart Park Stakes (Eng-II) at Doncaster in his last start Sept. 11 at 16-1 odds for trainer Clive Cox. Balthazaar's Gift is an eight-time winner in 48 starts with nearly $1 million in career earnings. He drew post 11 and will be ridden by Luke Morris.

Amico Fritz, trained by Henri-Alex Pantall, took a group II in Germany Aug. 29 as well as a group III event earlier in the year, both on yielding turf. The 4-year-old colt finished fifth in Royal Ascot's Golden Jubilee Stakes (Eng-I) in between those two victories. Mike Smith takes the reigns.

Serious Attitude, trained by co-owner Rae Guest, won the Cheveley Park Stakes (Eng-I) at Newmarket in 2008, but the Irish-bred 4-year-old son of Mtoto has lost six straight since taking a group III at York in July 2009.

Sid Attard sends out Norseman Racing Stable's Signature Red, winner of the Highlander Stakes (gr. IIT) at six furlongs in July. The 4-year-old Bernstein colt has raced twice since, running fifth as the favorite in the Play the King and tiring badly in the final quarter-mile to be 12th in the Woodbine Mile.

Woodbourne, a 6-year-old Danzig gelding for trainer Robert Tiller and The Very Dry Stable, turned in a determined effort in the Woodbine Mile to be third by 2 3/4 lengths at 52-1. This will be his first try at this short of a distance, however.

Sam-Son Farms' Grand Adventure, sixth in last year's Nearctic, won both the Connaught Cup (Can-IIIT) and King Edward Stakes (Can-IIT) over the course this spring. Trained by Mark Frostad, he tired to eighth in the Woodbine Mile after pressing the pace into the stretch and leading briefly.

$500,000 Nearctic Stakes (Can-IT, Race 8, 4:23 p.m.), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Field Commission (ON), J Castellano, 119, D J Vella
2. Grand Adventure (KY), P Husbands, 121, M R Frostad
3. Bridgetown (FL), E Trujillo, 115, K G McPeek
4. Bogue Chitto (FL), G Olguin, 117, I Howard
5. Towzee (NZ), J Bisono, 117, B A Lynch
6. Amico Fritz (GER), M E Smith, 121, H Pantall
7. Signature Red (KY), L Contreras, 121, S C Attard
8. Sneaking Uponyou (FL), A Garcia, 117, J Ness
9. Fatal Bullet (FL), E R Da Silva, 117, R Baker
10. Serious Attitude (IRE), G K Gomez, 114, R Guest
11. Balthazaar's Gift (IRE), L Morris, 121, C Cox
12. Woodbourne (ON), C Sutherland, 117, R P Tiller