05/27/2004 11:00PM

Frostad has Connaught's number

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sam-Son Farm and trainer Mark Frostad, who captured the last two runnings of the Grade 3 Connaught Cup Stakes with Quiet Resolve and Fly Smartly, could run one-two with Shoal Water and Puffer in Sunday's renewal of the 1 1/16-mile grass race at Woodbine.

Shoal Water ran in all three legs of the 2003 Canadian Triple Crown, finishing fourth in the Queen's Plate, third in the Prince of Wales, and second on turf in the Breeders' Stakes. He went on to capture the Grade 2 Saranac Handicap at Saratoga, before disappointing in his final two outings of the year.

Shoal Water got the winter off and resurfaced at Keeneland in an April 18 allowance, in which he finished fifth behind Wando, winner of the 2003 Canadian Triple Crown. Shoal Water returned here for the allowance prep for the $164,400 Connaught, and was a handy winner under Todd Kabel.

Assistant trainer Hugh Chatman said Shoal Water needed his first race back.

"He wasn't tight enough at Keeneland," Chatman said. "He ran his race and just got tired. He's doing really good now. Like most horses, he matured from 3 to 4. He had a tough campaign last year, and the winter off did him good. He seems to have filled out a lot."

Kabel, who is shooting for his third straight Connaught victory, retains the mount on Shoal Water.

Puffer, a son of 1991 Connaught winner Sky Classic, notched his only stakes win over yielding ground here in the 2003 With Approval. He finished third and fourth in back-to-back third-level allowances at Keeneland in April.

Puffer's record of three wins, six seconds, and three thirds from 13 starts pretty much sums up his main weakness, which is a tendency to hang if he hits the front prematurely.

"He's a funny horse," Chatman said. "He always runs a big race when you get him off the pace. You have to cover him up early, and then he'll have a big late kick for you. If you don't cover him up, he tries to run off and will get to the front too early, and then he loafs."

Chatman said Puffer seems poised to fire his best shot. "He's pretty sharp right now," he said.

Slade Callaghan will ride Puffer for the first time on Sunday.

Completing the field are Tusayan, Slew Valley, Prince Alphie, Mr. Sulu, and Le Cinquieme Essai.

Prince Alphie and Le Cinquieme Essai finished second and third, respectively, behind Shoal Water in the prep.