10/20/2004 11:00PM

Strut the Stage follows steps of Chief Bearhart

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Mark Frostad knows something about taking a horse out of cool weather in Canada to run in a warm climate in the Breeders' Cup Turf. It was seven years ago that Chief Bearhart, trained by Frostad, won the Turf as the favorite at Hollywood Park, overcoming the commonly held belief that cold-weather horses are at a disadvantage when making such a move.

Frostad will be represented again in the BC Turf this year, when Strut the Stage makes his fourth start of the year next Saturday in the $2 million race at Lone Star Park. Although Strut the Stage has earned nearly $1.5 million for owner Sam-Son Farms, he has not yet proven to be as dominant as Chief Bearhart, and he figures to be one of the longer prices among the 11 horses pre-entered in the Turf.

"I don't know if he's quite the same caliber as Chief Bearhart was, but he is a very nice horse," Frostad said Thursday from Canada. "He's run some big races before, and we're hoping he's ready to run his best in Texas."

In a coincidence, the three Woodbine stakes in which Strut the Stage raced this year are the same three in which he ended his 2003 campaign: the Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes, Niagara Breeders' Cup, and Sky Classic Handicap. Strut the Stage, a 6-year-old Kentucky-bred by 1987 BC Turf winner Theatrical, "came out of the Sky Classic last year with a stress fracture," said Frostad.

A regrouped Strut the Stage came back in good order this year, and even though he ran seventh as the 3-10 favorite in the Sky Classic in his last start, he is widely regarded as Canada's top turf horse at longer distances. "I am a little baffled about that last race, but it was a very slow pace, and we just waited too long to get moving," said Frostad. "He was running coming home. I'd really just throw the race out."

Frostad has toyed with keeping Strut the Stage home for the Canadian International on Sunday, "but we're far more likely to go to Texas," he said.

Strut the Stage is scheduled to have his last pre-race workout Saturday at Woodbine, ship Sunday to Lexington, Ky., then go to Louisville, Ky., on Tuesday for a charter flight to Dallas. His Sam-Son stablemate Soaring Free, pre-entered in the Mile, will follow an identical schedule.

In other Turf news, Kitten's Joy was out for an uneventful gallop at Lone Star on Thursday, two days after his arrival from Louisville. Owner Ken Ramsey said trainer Dale Romans "told me everything went great." Kitten's Joy will have his final pre-race workout Saturday over the Lone Star turf course. Most Breeders' Cup starters will work over the next few days, whether at Lone Star or at their home bases before shipping to Texas.

Besides Kitten's Joy, Magistretti was the only other Turf starter at Lone Star as of Thursday.