By Woodbine Communications

TORONTO, December 7, 2023 – The $100,000 Steady Growth, a 1 1/16-mile main track stakes for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward, headlines Sunday’s card at Woodbine.

A 5-year-old son of Big Screen-Executive Affair, Cruden Bay brings a record of 5-9-1 from 19 starts into his first stakes appearance. 

Owned by Michael Lay, the gelding, who has finished first or second in 13 of his past 15 races, is 3-4-0 from seven starts in 2023. 

“The biggest thing about him is his non-stop effort,” said trainer Don MacRae. “Every race he runs in, he consistently tries right to the wire. You start to hear more and more people talk about him. When they look at his form, they see how consistent he is. It doesn’t matter what level he is running at or who the competition is, he doesn’t realize it – he just fires his top effort every time.”

MacRae, who has posted $722,560 (U.S.) in earnings so far this season, the most since his 2010 campaign, recalled the moment that he first saw the bay who was bred in Ontario by Spring Farm. 

“He was an ugly duckling. My wife and I went to look at him a couple of times at the sale (2019 Canadian Premier Yearling Sale). He had what they call a ewe neck… there was no real muscle definition to his neck. When I spoke to Michael Lay, we knew this horse had a very good catalogue page. He’s a half to (multiple stakes winner) Cooler Mike and (stakes winner) Sav, so I told Michael, ‘If he grows into himself, he’s going to be a very good-looking horse, and he could be a very good one.’

“I have been taught by some very good horseman and they would say that you have to see what they might look like as they get older. We were envisioning that with him, and things have turned out as we hoped, probably even better than we imagined.” 

Cruden Bay launched his career with a 7 ¼-length stunner in a six-furlong Tapeta race on November 11, 2020, in what was his only 2-year-old start. After a trio of sixths in his 3-year-old year, Cruden Bay went 1-5-1 from eight engagements in 2022. 

One effort caught MacRae completely off-guard. 

“Last November, he finished fifth and was beaten seven lengths. That shows you why sometimes trainers know nothing. I had two horses in the race – Sir Sahib was the other – and I didn’t think it was possible for Cruden Bay to get beat. As it turned out, Sir Sahib galloped that day. I had worked them twice ahead of that race, both in company, and Cruden Bay blew his doors off in those works. I remember going back to the barn and telling the girl who rubs Sir Sahib, ‘I feel bad because he can’t win. Cruden Bay is just too good right now.’ And he didn’t fire. But he certainly has been fantastic for us.”

That confidence prompted MacRae to give the bay his first shot at stakes competition. 

“He loves the game,” said the conditioner, who will also send out multiple stakes-winning 5-year-old Avoman in the Steady Growth. “Even as a 2-year-old, he loved it. He loves what he does, and he still does to this day. He wants attention, he wants to be around people – he’ll poke his nose at you to get you to come over and pet him. He’s just a cool dude in every way.” 

Lisa Knight has been the groom throughout Cruden Bay’s entire racing career. 

“Her work has been vital in the success of this horse,” said MacRae. “He takes a lot of work. He is an athlete, and he does have his little bumps and bruises from time to time. I sincerely believe that if it wasn’t for the work Lisa has done with this horse, I don’t think he’d be half the horse he is.

“As much as trainers are the ones who get the attention, good and bad, it is important to take a moment to thank the people who put so much into these horses. What Lisa has done with this horse – words can’t describe it.”   

Other hopefuls in the last stakes race of the 2023 Woodbine season include 2021 Woodbine Mile (G1T) victor Town Cruise, multiple graded stakes winner Artie’s Storm, graded stakes winner Secret Reserve, multiple stakes winner Dun Drum, and stakes winners Mason’s Gamble, Perfect Crime, and Rapid Test.  

First post time for the 10-race card is 1:05 p.m. Fans can watch and wager on all the action through, bet365, and the Dark Horse Bets app.  

Field for the Steady Growth (Race 8)
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer 

1 – Secret Reserve – Leo Salles – Mike Mattine 

2 – Mason’s Gamble – Justin Stein – Josie Carroll 

3 – Perfect Crime – Jose Campos – Patrick Dixon 

4 – Grandson (S) – Luis Contreras – John LeBlanc, Jr. 

5 – Town Cruise – Patrick Husbands – Brandon Greer 

6 – Dun Drum – Ryan Munger – Ian Black 

7 – Artie’s Storm – Emma-Jayne Wilson – Paul Buttigieg 

8 – Rapid Test – Rafael Hernandez – Catherine Day Phillips 

9 – Avoman – Sahin Civaci – Don MacRae 

10 – Cruden Bay – Kazushi Kimura – Don MacRae 

11 – Ron’s Gizmo – Keveh Nicholls – Ron Sadler