09/23/2003 12:00AM

Class drop for Stage Classic


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Multiple stakes winner Stage Classic will get some class relief Thursday at Woodbine when he competes in the featured sixth race, a $100,000 optional claimer scheduled for the grass.

Stage Classic, a 5-year-old Sky Classic gelding, captured the Grade 2 Manitoba Derby at 3, before trainer Dave Cotey began to campaign him almost strictly on the grass. He won the Grade 2 Sky Classic Handicap in September 2001 and won his third stakes last fall in the 1 1/4-mile Chief Bearhart Stakes here over yielding ground.

Stage Classic finished seventh behind such heavyweights as Strut the Stage and Perfect Soul in a pair of Grade 2 stakes at this meeting, including the Grade 2 King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap on June 15. Perhaps his best performance of the meet was a narrow loss in a June 29 allowance. Most recently, he finished 10th in the Grade 2 Niagara BC Handicap, which had the strongest field of any stakes run here this year aside from the Grade 1 Atto Mile.

Constant Montpellier will ride Stage Classic for the partnership of Cotey, Derek Ball, and Hugh Galbraith.

Just four others were entered in the 1 1/4-mile race: Hard Edge, Academic, Muntej, and Brother Pat. Only Stage Classic will run without a selling price.

Hard Edge has been second in each of his last two outings, including the restricted With Approval Handicap at about 1 1/8 miles over yielding ground. His lone attempt around two turns over this course resulted in a third-place finish in a second-level allowance July 23.

Gerry Olguin has the mount for trainer Sid Attard, who claimed Hard Edge for a bargain $35,000 from Sam-Son Farm last November.

Brother Pat, trained by Lynn Simon, fared well in each of his three turf starts this year, all at his home base of Fort Erie. A 4-year-old, Brother Pat won an optional claimer in his first try with Lasix on July 6. He earned second in each of his two most recent starts, the latest being a neck loss to Le Cinquieme Essai - the 2002 champion 3-year-old in Canada - in the Puss N Boots Stakes.

Simon won an Aug. 21 allowance here with Soon to Be Single.

Trainer Greg Cox claimed Muntej for $50,000 on July 26. Muntej was third going 1 1/2 miles that day, and in subsequent starts he finished sixth in a tough classified allowance and fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Puss N Boots.