Asserting Bear, shifted from turf to Polytrack for the first time by trainer Reade Baker, surprised the field with his initial stakes win in the $239,476 Coronation Futurity (VIDEO) for 2-year-olds Nov. 17 at Woodbine.
Always prominent for jockey James McAleney, Asserting Bear shifted into overdrive in upper stretch to sweep past pacesetter Heart to Heart. He then dug in to repel stablemate Man o' Bear and Majestic Sunset in the final furlong for a one-length victory. The 8-1 shot completed the 1 1/8-mile distance in 1:50.96.
Majestic Sunset, who put in a big run at the rail for Eurico Rosa Da Silva, finished second by half a length over Man o' Bear, who was a game third under Emma-Jayne Wilson.
Grey Stakes (Can-III) winner Ami's Holiday, unbeaten in two starts, was the 3-5 favorite in the field of seven. Racing near the rear of the pack most of the way, he finished fifth but was disqualified to last for interference near the quarter pole.
McAleney, who previously captured the Coronation Futurity with Spigot (1988) and Firm Dancer (1995), tipped his cap to Baker for having Asserting Bear prepared.
"He was right on his game," said McAleney of the winner. "He worked really well coming into this race. He's made leaps and bounds of improvement from the first time I rode him until now and that's the handling of the horse."
Bear Stables' Asserting Bear, a son of Bear's Kid out of the stakes-placed Asset mare Star Guest, had made four prior starts, all on the Woodbine turf. He served notice that he was sitting on a big race with a game rally to be third, beaten by three-quarters of a length, in the 1 1/16-mile Cup & Saucer Oct. 20.
"He ran a great race that day (in the Cup and Saucer)," said McAleney. "Soft turf tends to favor speed so the two horses that ran one-two (Matador by a nose over Cool Faith) had favor to their side. He closed really hard late."
Baker earned his first Coronation Futurity score and said he's keen to see Asserting Bear contest longer distances going forward.
"He's got distance on both sides of his pedigree," said Baker, perhaps thinking about next year's Queen's Plate. "Asserting Bear is a half-brother to a horse (Inish Glora) that made $977,000 going long."
The Coronation Futurity score was key to owner Danny Dion's Bear Stables, as he owns the sire, who stands in Ontario at Colebrook Farms. Bear's Kid enjoyed his first stakes winner with Asserting Bear.
The winner was bred in Ontario by John Carey and was a $50,695 Canadian auction yearling buy in September 2012.
Heart to Heart was keen at the start to get the lead, as was an eager Asserting Bear, and those two set off in front of Majestic Sunset and Matador through fractions of :24.41, :49.03, and 1:13.61. Asserting Bear, after settling into hand about two lengths back while racing a bit off the rail down the backstretch, gradually cut into Heart to Heart's advantage rounding the far turn.
Asserting Bear appeared poised to sweep past the leader and after a couple of taps of the whip right-handed in the stretch from McAleney, he did so willingly. He was immediately challenged by Man o' Bear on his outside and Majestic Sunset at the rail but was up for the fight, extending himself to the wire.
After a maiden win at seven furlongs in his second start Aug. 24, Asserting Bear earned his second lifetime victory from five races. The winning Coronation Futurity share of $143,685 pushed the bay colt's earnings to $208,657.
With the odds-on favorite out of the money, Asserting Bear paid $19.90, $7.70, and $18.40 across the board and keyed a $254.20 exacta. Majestic Sunset returned $19.20 and $19. Man o' Bear was $6.50 to show. Heart to Heart held on for fourth.
Ami's Holiday, attempting to rally between horses on the turn for jockey Luis Contreras, finished fifth but was placed last by stewards, who found he came out on Matador at the top of the lane. The favorite was placed behind Wild Cal and Matador in the final order.