Bear Character, one of Woodbine's top American-bred 3-year-olds, takes on four rivals in Saturday's $150,000 Marine Stakes (Can-III) on the Toronto track.
The 1 1/16-mile event is the meet's first two-turn stakes event for sophomores and is traditionally an important prep for the $1 million Queen's Plate, the country's premiere race for Canadian-bred horses set for June 25.
As a Kentucky-bred, Bear Character isn't using the Marine as a stepping stone to the 1 ¼-mile classic.
Under jockey Jim McAleney, the bay son of Dixie Union
looks to tally his first career graded stakes race. Last month, he came close, finishing a strong third in the Lexington Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland.
"We thought he was going to run a dandy and a dandy he did," said the gelding's trainer Reade Baker, who has four Woodbine stakes triumphs in 2006.
Bear Character settled just off the pace in the 1 1/16-mile event, took the lead at the eighth pole and dueled gamely to the wire, finishing 1 ½ lengths behind Showing Up and a neck behind Like Now.
"If the jock had not lost his whip, I thought he would have been second – I don't know if he would have won it. It was an eventful trip. He didn't break as well as we thought. He went a little wide into the first turn for some reason."
Last year, Bear Character was trained by Dale Greenwood to win the $50,000 Edmonton Juvenile at Northlands Park and the $132,000 Swynford Stakes at Woodbine by a half-length.$150,000 Marine Stakes (Can-III, Race 6, 3:35 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Ok Nothanksforaskn (KY), 115, Patrick Husbands
2. Bear Character (KY), 117, James McAleney
3. Throng (KY). 115, Michael J. Luzzi
4. Malakoff (ON), 115, Todd Kabel
5. Louie Nekia (KY), 115, Emma-Jayne Wilson