06/20/2003 12:00AM

Mobil and Wando's Plate date


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Owner Gustav Schickedanz and trainer Mike Keogh hold a pair of aces in the two uncoupled favorites, Wando and Mobil, in Sunday's $1 million , a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

The 144th running of the Plate, the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, heads a blockbuster 11-race card at Woodbine. Sunday's supporting features are the Grade 2 Nearctic Handicap, and the Sweet Briar Too and Charlie Barley stakes.

Wando and Mobil, both handsome colts by Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap winner Langfuhr, will meet for the first time on Sunday. They will not be coupled because there are no entries in stakes worth $100,000 or more at Woodbine. Wando figures to set the pace, while Mobil should assume a stalking position under Todd Kabel, who chose Mobil over Wando after he worked him six furlongs in a bullet 1:12.60 seconds on Monday.

"He worked awesome," Kabel said. "This horse is ready. He's a true mile-and-a-quarter horse, and [Wando] is a question mark at the distance. Wando could get a mile and a quarter with this group of horses, but his true distance is probably a mile. I don't think he's a horse you can get in a fighting match with, or he'll get a lot more aggressive with you. He'll be in front of me in the race, that's for sure."

Mobil hasn't finished behind a rival in his last six starts, though he was disqualified from a dead heat for first in the Coronation Futurity. He was a determined winner of the nine-furlong Plate Trial Stakes three weeks ago.

Wando narrowly dropped his 2003 opener in the Achievement Handicap, but rebounded with a neck win in the Woodstock Stakes. He's coming off a scintillating gate-to-wire victory five weeks ago in the 1 1/16-mile Marine Stakes, in which he earned a 103 Beyer Figure, easily the highest in the Queen's Plate field.

Keogh said that Wando could end up on the lead again on Sunday, in a race lacking another legitimate front-runner. "The question is whether he can do it over another three-sixteenths of a mile," Keogh said.

Kabel has ridden two other runners in the field, Plate Trial runner-up Rock Again and Shoal Water. "Rock Again and Shoal Water both have a lot of talent," Kabel said. "They're just lacking a bit of seasoning."

Rock Again got hung out four wide on the clubhouse turn in the Trial, then made a three-wide bid to take the lead at the quarter-pole. He was mowed down by Mobil at the sixteenth-pole.

Trainer Malcolm Pierce said jockey Eibar Coa knows that he moved Rock Again too soon in the Trial.

"When [Coa] asked him around the far turn, he was a little surprised with the move he made," Pierce said. "I think he knows now to wait a little longer and make his run down the stretch. He wanted to come back and ride him."

Shoal Water set a slow pace and then drew off in the stretch to win a two-turn allowance in his only start this year on dirt.

"He's been training well," said trainer Mark Frostad. "I think he'll get a mile and a quarter. It's a case of whether he's seasoned enough."

Arco's Gold, who dead-heated with Mobil and was awarded total first-place money in the 2002 Coronation by disqualification, was a well-beaten third in his only appearance this year in the Grade 3 Marine.

"He battled a virus that kept him from training and racing," Ross said. "After his effort in the Marine and his last two works, I'm feeling a lot better heading into the race."

No horse has won the Plate with only one previous start in his 3-year-old year since the race was moved to Woodbine in 1956.

Ross will also saddle a gifted maiden, Dance Engagement, who was a close second two weeks ago in the nine-furlong Victoria Park Stakes.

Button Wood nailed favored Souvenier Biz on the wire to capture a quickly run June 8 race, which was his second consecutive allowance win.

Peef, another son of Langfuhr, was a distant third in the Trial, while British Columbia invader Illusive Force finished fourth in both the Marine and Victoria Park.

The Plate field was cut to 12 after Rockfield suffered a fatal injury during training hours on Friday.