08/29/2003 11:00PM

Mobil fit for surface switch

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Mobil, Woodbine's best 3-year-old aside from his stablemate Wando, should take some beating in Monday's Halton Stakes, a nine-furlong turf race worth $131,875.

The Halton is one of six stakes on Monday's card restricted to graduates of local yearling sales, along with the $139,750 Simcoe for 2-year-olds, the $136,375 Muskoka for

2-year-old fillies, the $130,000 Kenora for older sprinters, the $126,500 Algoma for fillies and mares, and the $130,375 Elgin older runners. The winning trainer of each race will receive a $15,000 bonus. The lone stipulation is that a horse cannot have been claimed at any time.

A lot has transpired with Mobil during the past year. He was an undistinguished maiden going into the 2002 Simcoe, which he won with determination. He captured the Plate Trial and Queenston Stakes this spring before finishing second to Wando in the $1 million Queen's Plate.

Mobil was recently fifth in the West Virginia Derby after a miscue at the break. Keogh said he was disappointed with the ride Mobil got from Jorge Chavez in that Grade 3 race, run at Mountaineer Park.

"My instructions were to be no more than three lengths off the lead," Keogh explained. "He stumbled leaving the gate, and I know that's an excuse, but then he just dragged him back. He had a chance to make up ground down the backside, but he never did. I don't think he could have beaten the first two, but I think he could have been third with the right trip."

Keogh raved about Mobil's workout over the turf training course last Sunday, when Mobil logged five-eighths in 59.80 seconds.

"He worked awesome," Keogh said. "When he was busting off, a horse who was already working blew by him, but he took dead aim at that horse and blew on by him. I caught him going his last quarter in 24."

Keogh cross-entered Mobil in the Elgin, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race, but said he is strongly leaning toward running him in the Halton. "I think he can run on anything, except for a cuppy racetrack," Keogh said.

Jockey Todd Kabel won four yearling sales stakes on the corresponding day in 2002, and figures to have another lucrative day Monday. Aside from Mobil, he will ride two other favorites - Winning Chance in the Algoma, and Phantom Light in the Elgin.

Kabel had a meet-leading 20 stakes victories heading into the weekend, and is within range of breaking Avelino Gomez's Ontario record of 32 stakes scores, set in 1966.