09/29/2005 11:00PM

Last race a boost for Strut the Stage


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Handicappers who had written off Strut the Stage before the Grade 2 Niagara Breeders' Cup Handicap on Sept. 5 got a rude awakening when he finished a game second.

Strut the Stage will try to string two big efforts together Sunday at Woodbine in the Grade 2, $328,500 Sky Classic Handicap. A 1 3/8-mile turf race, the Sky Classic is a prep for the $2 million Pattison Canadian International here Oct. 23.

Strut the Stage went into a four-race slump after taking the 2004 Niagara. Trainer Mark Frostad said Strut the Stage needed some racing experience to get back on track after returning from an extended layoff in July.

"He had some stress fractures last year, and we had to give him a long time off," Frostad said. "He's a real heavy-set horse, and it takes him a long time to get to the stage where he runs a good race, like last time."

Strut the Stage and A Bit O'Gold rallied in unison on the outside in the Niagara, in which Revved Up closed inside for the win.

"He got carried way wide by A Bit O'Gold," Frostad said. "Hopefully, he'll get a better trip this time, and I hope he runs back to that race. He looks good and has been training well."

A Bit O'Gold will likely be favored over Revved Up and Strut the Stage in the Sky Classic. A Bit O'Gold took the Grade 2 Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes in July, but failed to match strides with Strut the Stage in the stretch of the 1 1/2-mile Niagara and wound up 3 1/2 lengths back in third.

Before the Niagara, A Bit O'Gold worked five furlongs in a rapid 57 seconds, and trainer Catherine Day Phillips said she felt A Bit O'Gold wasn't at his best in the Niagara.

"I think he ran very flat," she said. "I think the breeze before the race probably took a bit of the stuffing out of him. He was flat-footed from the get-go. He just wasn't on his game and was miserable after the race."

Day Phillips said she is content with the way A Bit O'Gold is heading into the Sky Classic.

"He's doing really good," Day Phillips said. "He had a nice breeze last Saturday. I hope we don't get a lot of rain, because I wouldn't want to run him on really soggy turf."