09/28/2001 11:00PM

Euros center stage in International

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Mutamam and Daliapour head a strong European contingent in Sunday's Grade 1, $1.5 million Canadian International at Woodbine. A field of 12 was drawn for the 64th running of the International, which is the sixth leg of the 2001 Emirates World Series.

Local upstart Strut the Stage should also be among the favorites in the 1 1/2-mile turf race. Mutamam, who is based in England with trainer Alec Stewart, turned heads when he finished a close fourth at 37-1 in the 2000 Breeders' Cup Turf at Churchill. Mutamam started his current campaign by winning a Group 2 race at Newmarket on July 10, but was throttled by Galileo just 18 days later in the Group 1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes. Stewart felt Mutamam bounced in the King George, and he gave the horse some time off before sending him out to take the Group 2 September Stakes at Kempton on Sept. 8 for the second year in row.

"He seems in very good form," said Stewart, who added that he used the September Stakes as a prep for the Canadian International. "It was the same race he won last year on his way to the Breeders' Cup."

Daliapour, a Group 1 winner in England, finished third as the favorite in the 2000 International. He subsequently captured the Hong Kong Vase, but fared poorly in his next four starts and has been absent from competition since his most recent Hong Kong outing, on April 22, when he was reunited with trainer Michael Stoute.

"He hasn't been running because we had to get him acclimatized after he came back from Hong Kong," said assistant trainer Jimmy Scott. "He traveled here much better this year, and he's trained very well. He likes this track, and he has a better draw this year. He was drawn on the outside last year, and we had to make a bit too much use of him early, and he didn't come on like we thought he would. Hopefully, he'll get some cover early on this time."

The other Europeans in the lineup are the Andre Fabre-trained French runner Slew the Red; German invader Paolini, a Group 1 winner in Italy; and English runner Zindabad.

Strut the Stage, the lone 3-year-old in the field, is coming off a heartbreaking loss against his own age group in the Grade 1 Secretariat at Arlington. He circled the field on the far turn of the 1 1/4-mile Secretariat, which was run over yielding ground; he looked like a winner throughout the stretch, but was nailed on the wire by Startac. As a 3-year-old, Strut the Stage will carry 118 pounds, eight pounds less than all of his rivals.

Strut the Stage is out of a half-sister to turf champion Chief Bearhart, another Sam-Son Farm runner trained by Mark Frostad. Chief Bearhart won the 1997 International a year after he was second in the race as a 3-year-old. Owner Tammy Samuel-Balaz said the two horses have many similarities. "They're both very good-looking chestnuts," said Samuel-Balaz, "and they both have that same incredible stretch kick. Strut the Stage is smaller than Chief. He's well balanced, and has a huge stride."

Kentucky-based Williams News suffered his own tough beat in the 2000 International, which he lost by a nose to Mutafaweq after leading for most of the final furlong. Trainer Tom Amoss has campaigned Williams News sparingly this season. He finished fourth last time out in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Handicap at Saratoga. "We wanted to spread his races out a little more this year," said Amoss. "The Sword Dancer was run over soft turf, which isn't his favorite surface. I thought it was his best race of the year."

Southern California shipper Falcon Flight was fourth most recently in the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap, and was victorious over Williams News on July 1 going 1 1/2 miles at Arlington in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes Handicap. Don Burke trains.