10/31/2003 1:00AM

Mobil set to end year on high note


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - It's last call for grass racing here Sunday, but a few who were hoping to belly up to the bar for a final shot are being left high and dry.

Three one-mile turf races are carded for Sunday, including the Labeeb and River Memories stakes.

The Labeeb attracted 16 entrants and the River Memories drew 20, but only 14 will be allowed to start in each race. Highweights were preferred, with 3-year-olds allowed five pounds on the scale, and in the case of ties those horses with the lowest lifetime earnings were excluded.

One Labeeb entrant who certainly had no worries on the earnings standpoint is Mobil, who has banked $1,034,381 for his owner- breeder, Gustav Schickedanz, and trainer, Mike Keogh.

In any other season, Mobil undoubtedly would have been Canada's 3-year-old champion, and perhaps more.

But this year Mobil had to play second fiddle to his stablemate Wando, who left Mobil a distant runner-up in the Queen's Plate and rolled through the remainder of the Canadian Triple Crown.

As long as Wando was live for the Triple Crown and its $500,000 bonus, Mobil's connections were not about to risk spoiling that party.

So Mobil went his own way and has racked up three stakes victories in five starts since the Plate, winning the Toronto Cup and Halton over 1 1/8 miles on turf and most recently the Ontario Derby over 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

His only losses came in the Grade 3 West Virginia Derby, where he finished fifth after breaking very poorly, and here in the Grade 2 Sky Classic, where he ran a game third over 1 3/8 miles on soft turf.

In the Labeeb, Mobil will be favored to wind up his campaign on a winning note under 119 pounds and regular rider Todd Kabel.

"He's sharp," said Keogh, who added that he hadn't breezed the colt since the Ontario Derby. "He's galloping strong and happily."

Keogh also believes Mobil will be comfortable cutting back to a mile, which will be the shortest distance he has raced since winning his seasonal bow in the seven-furlong Queenston here May 3.

"I don't see that as a problem at all," said Keogh, "not with his tactical speed."

The chief dangers to Mobil in the Labeeb are Shoal Water and Puffer, both owned by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Mark Frostad.

Shoal Water finished second to Wando in the Breeders', the final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, over 1 1/2 miles on turf. He then won the Grade 3 Saranac, a 1 3/16-mile turf race at Saratoga, and most recently finished eighth of 10 after setting the pace in the Grade 1 Canadian International over 1 1/2-miles of yielding going.

"That was asking a lot, to run him in there," said Frostad. "But, we thought we'd take the shot."

Puffer also raced on the turf on Canadian International Day, Oct. 19, finishing second to stablemate Colorful Judgement in the 1 1/4-mile Chief Bearhart.

"I think he'll prefer this shorter distance," said Frostad.

Baie shut out of River Memories

Frostad was less fortunate in the River Memories when Baie, a 3-year-old filly whom he trains for 6 C Racing Stable, did not make the lineup after being stranded on the also-eligible list.

Although Baie has earned only $116,182, she probably would have been favored in the River Memories off her close sixth-place finish in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes here Oct. 19.

Heyahohowdy and Diadella, who finished next to last and last in the field of 10 for E.P. Taylor, should be prominent in the River Memories.

A 4-year-old owned by Kelynack Racing Stable and trained by Abraham Katryan, Heyahohowdy has won two turf stakes this year but faltered after forcing the pace over the 1 1/4 miles of soft going in the Taylor.

"It was deep turf, and with those types of horses it's not easy," said Katryan. "But, she's back to herself now. I'm looking forward to a big race.

Diadella, a 6-year-old owned by Stronach Stable and trained by Malcolm Pierce, won the 2001 River Memories over a yielding surface but was never in the hunt under jockey Patrick Husbands in the Taylor.

"She went into the race so well, but she didn't like the soft turf," said Pierce. "Patrick said he was pretty much out of horse when he turned for home. That's the opposite of what this mare is."

Pop Princess to go in main-track stakes

Pierce has had to be a pillar of patience this year with Pop Princess, a 3-year-old filly who showed plenty of potential in her debut here last Oct. 25.

Pop Princess, a Stronach Stable homebred, overcame an eventful trip that day to prevail by a head over a mile on yielding turf, an obviously testing situation for a first-timer.

But it would be almost a year before Pop Princess got to strut her stuff again, as she was injured while training at Gulfstream this winter and then missed several chances to start here when her races were taken off the turf.

Finally, on Oct. 12, Pop Princess started in a first-level allowance at a mile on turf and confirmed her earlier promise despite missing by a nose as the runner-up.

"I was very, very pleased with the way she ran - she tried hard," said Pierce. "She ran a winning race - she just got second money."

Buoyed by that effort, Pierce now is reversing his field with Pop Princess and will send her out on the main track for Sunday's $171,300 Jammed Lovely, a seven-furlong race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

"It's kind of an experiment," said Pierce. "She works well enough on dirt, but working and racing are sometimes a little different."