09/26/2003 12:00AM

Strut the Stage finds there's no place like home


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Strut the Stage will prep for several of the world's richest races as the heavy favorite in Sunday's $271,750 Sky Classic Handicap at Woodbine.

The Grade 2 stakes has lured five others, including the 3-year-old Mobil, who figures to be the second choice in the 1 3/8-mile turf race.

Strut the Stage has won both of his starts here since losing his season opener to Perfect Soul in the Grade 2 King Edward BC Handicap. He avenged that loss in the 1 3/8-mile Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes, and is coming off a score in an accomplished field in the 1 1/2-mile Niagara BC Handicap. Both were Grade 2 stakes.

Owned by Sam-Son Farm, Strut the Stage was inconsistent in 2002. Trainer Mark Frostad attributed that form to races that were too short and to Strut the Stage having raced at six different tracks.

"We were trying to make him into a miler last year, and he kept coming up a little bit short," Frostad said. "He did a lot of traveling last year, when it was a very hot summer, and he doesn't like the hot weather that much. It made a lot of difference to him this year when we stretched him out."

Frostad is looking at either the $1.5 million Canadian International here Oct. 19 or the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita Oct. 25 as the next start for Strut the Stage, who could cap his campaign in the $3.8 million Japan Cup Nov. 30.

"We're leaning towards the International," Frostad said. "I think it would be the better spot. If you go out to California, you can get real hard tracks. He's been here all year. He's run very well, and has only had three starts. If he runs well in the International, then you're set up for the Japan Cup."

Todd Kabel will ride 123-pound highweight Strut the Stage, who didn't pick up any weight off his Niagara score.

Frostad also entered 3-year-old Destiny Red, a winner of his only start at about 1 1/4 miles on the grass Sept. 5. "He's the pacemaker, to keep the pace honest," Frostad said.

Mobil, who has won 3 of his 4 turf starts, is one of two Mike Keogh-trained runners in the field, along with recent allowance winner Wild Strike. Patrick Husbands inherits the mount on Mobil from Kabel.

Bowman Mill, trained by Michael Dickinson, was fourth after dueling on the lead in the Aug. 30 Niagara.