10/13/2004 11:00PM

Mobil returns to the dirt

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Mobil, Woodbine's top older male on the dirt, heads a five-horse field in Saturday's $159,450 Durham Cup Handicap.

Mobil has stuck to the grass with mixed success since winning his last main-track outing by nearly 13 lengths, in the Grade 3 Dominion Day Handicap on July 1. He narrowly lost the Grade 2 Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes on July 25, and then finished well back after a wide trip in the Grade 1 Arlington Million.

won the minor Halton Stakes with ease for the second year in a row Sept. 5, and is coming off a nonthreatening fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Atto Mile.

Trainer Mike Keogh said Mobil was stiff after the Atto.

"He was very body-sore after the race," Keogh said. "I turned him out for a week in one of my turn-out pens, and then started him up slowly. He came around good after that.

"He had one little breeze last week in 1:02," Keogh said of a five-furlong workout.

Keogh was puzzled by Mobil's 126-pound weight assignment for the Grade 3 Durham Cup.

"It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me," Keogh said. "All he's won this year is the Vigil, which is a sprint, the Dominion Day, and a restricted yearling sales stakes on the turf, and they gave him 126 pounds."

The speed in the nine-furlong event on the dirt will be provided by Norfolk Knight and Sky Diamond.

Norfolk Knight won his first stakes in the restricted Steady Growth in June. He was a disappointment in his next four outings, but then snapped out of his slump in the allowance prep for the Durham Cup, in which he led throughout while receiving a Beyer Speed Figure of 99.

Groom Jay Mazzuca felt the addition of Lasix in the prep had a beneficial calming effect on Norfolk Knight.

Lasix, said Mazzucca, "helped him out a lot. In his previous races, he walked to the paddock with class, but once he got in there, he started to get nervous. With Lasix, he was well-mannered and more focused."

Sky Diamond was claimed for a bargain $35,000 by Roger Patten from Sam-Son Farm in July. He subsequently won three straight 1 1/16-mile races in front-running style, including two allowances, earning an average Beyer Figure of 93.

Trainer Sid Attard believes Sky Diamond could assume a stalking position in the Durham Cup.

"He does what you want him to do," Attard said. "He doesn't have to go to the lead - he can come from off of it, too.