07/23/2004 12:00AM

Sam-Son goes for Cultural Centre triple


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Sam-Son Farm and trainer Mark Frostad will be looking to keep a streak going in Sunday's Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes, a 1 3/8-mile turf feature for 3-year-olds and upward.

Formerly known as the Hong Kong Jockey Club Trophy Stakes, the Chinese Cultural Centre has been run under its current name just twice and the Sam-Son team has fielded both winners, with Strike Smartly turning the trick in 2002 and Strut the Stage following suit last year.

Strut the Stage will be trying to duplicate that success Sunday, while his stablemate Shoal Water merits a long look on his own account.

But their tasks will not be easy ones, with the likes of reigning Canadian turf champion Perfect Soul and the razor-sharp Slew Valley among their opponents

Complicating Strut the Stage's assignment is that the Chinese Cultural Centre will be his first start since last Sept. 28, when he finished fourth as the 1-2 choice here in the Grade 2 Sky Classic over 1 3/8 miles of soft turf.

Strut the Stage, a Kentucky-bred 6-year-old gelding, came out of the race with a stress fracture, according to Frostad, and needed plenty of time off. Although Strut the Stage was scheduled to return in the prep for the Chinese Cultural Centre here July 4, that plan went by the boards when the 1 1/4-mile turf race failed to fill.

"He may need a race," said Frostad. "But, he's a pretty nice horse."

Shoal Water, an Ontario-bred 4-year-old, comes into the Chinese Cultural Centre off a pair of narrow turf stakes defeats here. The most recent was a neck loss in the 1 1/8-mile King Edward, where he pressed the pace of eventual fourth-place finisher Wando before succumbing to the late charge of Slew Valley.

"He was just unlucky last time," said Frostad. "He had to go with that pace horse, and it just set it up for that other horse.

"He will be the pace horse this time. If they go with him, it will set it up for [Strut the Stage]. If they don't, he'll be tough."

Coming week packed with stakes

There will be plenty of stakes action in the upcoming racing week, which will span six days culminating in the Aug. 2 Simcoe Day program.

On Wednesday evening, Ontario-sired fillies will be featured in the $125,000 Passing Mood at seven furlongs on turf.

Leading candidates for the Passing Mood are La Grande Mamma, Financingavailable, and Blonde Executive.

La Grande Mamma, trained by Steve Owens, won the six-furlong Nandi last summer and is coming off a sharp score in a second-level allowance for Ontario-sired fillies and mares over seven furlongs of turf July 1.

Blonde Executive, trained by Radlie Loney, won the seven-furlong Lady Angela here May 29 but then finished fourth as the odds-on choice when facing older Ontario-sired fillies and mares in the six-furlong Ballade on June 30. The Passing Mood would be her first start on turf.

Financingavailable, owned and trained by Mark Casse, is coming off a solid second-place finish in the Ontario Damsel, a 6 1/2-furlong turf race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Casse trains seven of the 21 nominees for Saturday's $125,000 Colin, a six-furlong race for 2-year-olds, but has pegged Stylin Cat as his only probable starter.

Stylin Cat, a Florida-bred whom Casse owns in partnership with HorseN Around Racing Stable, would be making his second start after proving a game winner of his debut at six furlongs on "good" turf here July 17.

"He can run on dirt, too," said Casse.

One of Casse's other Colin nominees is Quite a Ruckus, the Kentucky-bred filly who won the five-furlong My Dear here July 4 in her first lifetime start. Quite a Ruckus had been named as a prospect for the Schuylerville, the opening-day feature at Saratoga on Wednesday, but will not be making that trip.

Instead, she will point for the $125,000 Ontario Debutante, a six-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies Aug. 22.

Quite a Ruckus breeze a four furlongs in 48.40 seconds on the fast main track here Friday.

'Sphynx' and Touchnow meet again

Next Sunday's feature will be the $250,000 Wonder Where, the 1 1/4-mile turf race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies that is the final leg of Canada's triple tiara.

There will be no claimant of the triple tiara bonus, but the Wonder Where will feature the winners of the first two legs of the series.

Eye of the Sphynx, who captured the 1 1/8-mile Labatt Woodbine Oaks June 13, and Touchnow, who turned the tables in the 1 1/16-mile Bison City at Fort Erie July 4, both will be trying grass for the first time.

Other Wonder Where probables include My Vintage Port, who finished third in both the Woodbine Oaks and Bison City; Moment of Peace, coming off a third-place finish in the Damsel; Sheer Enchantment, an impressive maiden winner at 1 1/4 miles on turf in her latest; and Velvet Snow, the Damsel winner.

Tiller also nominated Velvet Snow to Monday's Grade 3, $150,000 Royal North, a six-furlong turf race for fillies and mares.

The leading candidates for the Royal North include Hour of Justice and Heyahohowdy, the one-two finishers in the six-furlong turf prep here July 11.