Longshot Fifty Proof, confidently handled by Justin Stein, took over from odds-on Exhi around the far turn, then powered away to a half-length score over Don Cavallo in the featured $171,900, Grade 3 Eclipse Stakes, Saturday at Woodbine.
The imposing five-year-old gelded son of Whiskey Wisdom shadowed the Todd Pletcher-trained, Javier Castellano-ridden Exhi throughout the mile and one-sixteenth contest, as the pacesetter cut out fractions of :24.58, :47.91 and 1:11.42.
Stein then pushed the button on Fifty Proof around the far turn, as he blew by Exhi and immediately took charge. The massive chestnut opened a length on his pursuers in early stretch, then withstood a late assault from Don Cavallo and Stunning Stag, getting the distance in 1:42.56, just .34 seconds off the track record. Exhi faded to last in the six-horse field.
It was a remarkable performance for the Ontario-bred, his second win (and first stakes triumph) in as many starts this year after enjoying a banner 2010 season, when winning two of six outings. More importantly, though, he’d finished second to Redwood in the Grade 1 Northern Dancer, then a close fifth to Joshua Tree in the Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International last fall at Woodbine, en route to earning over $320,000 for the season.
In fact, his connections sent him to Japan for the Japan Cup to wrap up the year, but he finished off the board in the mile and one-half turf Group 1.
Trained by Ian Black, Fifty Proof opened his 2011 campaign with a workmanlike one and three-quarter length score in a seven-furlong allowance tilt on April 22, prior to today’s Eclipse.
“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).”
Added Black, “Justin really didn’t ask him last time. He’s still a big, fairly dumb horse. 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.”
Fifty Proof, owned by Kinghaven Farms, John Fielding and Ben Hutzel, paid $22.70, $9.20 and $8 as the second longest shot on the board, combining with Don Cavallo ($9.90, $7.40) for a $174.50 (5-6) exactor. A 5-6-2 (Stunning Stag, $4) triactor was worth $465.
With the $108,000 winner’s share, Fifty Proof has now banked $569,920 while scoring in six of just 12 lifetime starts.