06/17/2001 11:00PM

'Master' stalks third 2001 win


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Master Stuart will try to remain unbeaten on the year when he moves to the grass for Wednesday's Woodbine headliner, an $80,000 optional claimer at about 1 1/8 miles.

Elkazar, a winner of his only start, heads the supporting feature on the eight-race card, a six-furlong preliminary allowance on the main track.

Master Stuart reached full bloom last summer, when he recorded back-to-back second-place finishes on turf in the Grade 3 Toronto Cup Handicap and the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes, the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. However, he was beaten by double-digit margins in both of his fall races in restricted stakes, and was given the winter off by trainer Reade Baker.

Master Stuart reappeared May 6 in a seven-furlong allowance, and rallied from just off the pace to win by a length at a distance that seemed a little short for him. He doubled up most recently over a sloppy track in a $62,500 optional claimer, in which he dueled up front going a mile and 70 yards and prevailed by a neck over Seek Smartly.

Master Stuart has recorded two solid workouts in recent weeks. He drilled three-quarters in a bullet 1:14.60 on June 8, and went that same distance in 1:12 on Friday.

Todd Kabel, who won three consecutive races Sunday, including the Ontario Matron Handicap aboard Mountain Angel, retains the mount on Master Stuart, who figures to stalk the early speed.

Completing the field are Love Shuffle, Steady Pointe, Ice Water, Certainly Classic, Valid N Bold, and Double Blue.

Love Shuffle, a $40,000 claim by owner John Atto on Nov. 2, could be closing from far back for a high placing. A win-shy 6-year-old, Love Shuffle placed in three of his four winter races south of the border, the best of which was a narrow win in allowance company at Gulfstream Park.

Sandy McPherson trains the long-winded Love Shuffle, who has a record of 0-3-3 from nine starts at about this distance on turf.

Front-runners Ice Water and Steady Pointe both have a shot at the main slice of the $66,000 purse.

Ice Water has been a disappointment in his three 2001 races, all on dirt, but the switch in surfaces could snap him out of his slump.

Steady Pointe was beaten only 1 1/2 lengths after carving out the fractions in his most recent attempt at about this distance on turf in the Sept. 4 Halton Stakes. He was a respectable second on the main track in his lone appearance this year.