04/27/2005 11:00PM

Division champs meet in Vigil


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Many of Woodbine's best dirt horses, including comebacking champions Mobil and A Bit O'Gold, will clash at seven furlongs in Saturday's $165,300 Vigil Handicap.

Mobil, the 124-pound highweight and likely favorite, garnered the 2004 Sovereign Award as champion older runner on the strength of his three stakes scores. He captured the Grade 3 Dominion Day Handicap by nearly 13 lengths, and took the Halton Stakes on turf for the second year in a row.

"He's a very handy horse," said trainer Mike Keogh. "He doesn't carry his racetrack with him. He can run on slop, turf and a fast track."

Mobil, who is 3 for 3 at seven furlongs, might fire fresh better than any runner on the grounds. He won the seven-furlong Queenston Stakes in his 2003 opener and won the 2004 Vigil following a six-month layoff.

Keogh said Mobil was injured while losing the Grade 3 Durham Cup Handicap in his final 2004 outing.

"He came out of the race a little lame in behind," Keogh said. "He damaged his collateral ligament. We had to give him some time off, and I kept him on stall rest here. No operation was necessary."

Mobil spent the winter at the Palm Meadows training center and has trained sharply heading into the Vigil, according to Keogh.

A Bit O'Gold was last year's champion 3-year-old and the runner-up to Soaring Free in the voting for Horse of the Year. He was just three-quarters of a length away from sweeping the Canadian Triple Crown, which was his losing margin to Niigon in the Queen's Plate.

A Bit O'Gold, who also wintered in Florida, breezed five-eighths in a bullet 1:00.20 seconds on the main track here April 14 for trainer Catherine Day Phillips.

Among the others entered in the Grade 3 event are Judiths Wild Rush, Chris's Bad Boy, Norfolk Knight, and Royal Place.

Judiths Wild Rush, Canada's champion 2-year-old in 2003, suffered a heartbreaking loss in the opening-day feature, the six-furlong Jacques Cartier Stakes. He had a busy winter stint at Gulfstream, where he ended his meet with a pair of third-place finishes in optional claiming races.

Chris's Bad Boy, Woodbine's six-furlong track record holder, was a fading fourth as the favorite when he came off the sidelines in the Jacques Cartier. He was second in last year's Vigil after surrendering a clear lead in midstretch.

Norfolk Knight upset Mobil while leading throughout the nine-furlong Durham Cup in October.

Versatile Southern California invader Royal Place won the Daytona Handicap at Santa Anita in his next-to-last start.