07/23/2004 12:00AM

Distance a plus for Slew Valley


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Slew Valley, the current leader of Woodbine's deep turf division, seeks his third straight victory when he runs in Sunday's Grade 2, $333,300 Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes.

A high-caliber field of eight was drawn for the 1 3/8-mile event, including Grade 1 winner Perfect Soul and Strut the Stage, the first two finishers in last year's running.

Slew Valley took the Grade 3 Connaught Cup Stakes on May 30, when he made his first start for trainer Reade Baker. Slew Valley also won the 1 1/8-mile King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap on June 19, a race that included 2003 Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando.

Slew Valley earned his highest career Beyer Figure, 113, going 1 3/8 miles, when he ran second in the Grade 2 Bowling Green Handicap at Belmont in 2001.

"I can't wait to run him that far," Baker said. "He's got this long, magnificent run, which seems to last forever."

Perfect Soul should be the favorite as he preps for next month's Grade 1 Arlington Million, in which he finished fifth in 2003.

Perfect Soul captured the Grade 2 Makers Mark Mile in his season opener at Keeneland before ending far up a soggy course at Churchill Downs in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on May 1. Most recently, he was cut off in the stretch in the middle of a rally in the Grade 2 Firecracker BC Handicap at Churchill and was promoted from third to second by disqualification.

"He was going to win," Attfield said of the Firecracker. "It's a wonder he didn't go down in the race. He came out of the [Woodford Reserve] muscle sore, and then we had him on track for the Connaught Cup, but he kicked a wall in his stall. He also missed the King Edward because he had the cough, which was going through my barn."

Attfield also considered Saturday's Grade 3 Arlington Handicap for Perfect Soul, but decided to stay home, because he said he didn't want to ship Perfect Soul to Arlington twice in the hot weather.

Strut the Stage, who upset Perfect Soul in the 2003 Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes, has been laid up since his fourth-place finish in the Grade 2 Sky Classic Handicap here Sept. 28.

Trainer Mark Frostad said he had intended on running Strut the Stage in the allowance prep for the Chinese Cultural Centre, which failed to fill.

"He's been training well," Frostad said. "He's pretty fit, but he might well need a race."