10/14/2003 11:00PM

Strut the Stage's year is over

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The home team lost its major player for Sunday's $1.5 million Canadian International, as Strut the Stage will not race again this season because of injury.

The $750,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes for fillies and mares also will be run Sunday. Both are Grade 1 turf races.

Mark Frostad, who trains Strut the Stage for Sam-Son Farm, said the horse was found to be "slightly off behind" after a workout here Tuesday. "It could be a muscle pull or, at worst, a stress fracture of his tibia," said Frostad. "He's too nice a horse to take a chance with. The long-term outlook is fine; he'll be back next year."

Frostad was concerned after Strut the Stage finished fourth in his last start, beaten 4 1/4 lengths as the 123-pound highweight and odds-on choice in the Sky Classic here over soft turf.

"I was shocked at his performance; it was uncharacteristic," said Frostad. "He didn't have that finishing kick.

"At first, I put it down to the soft turf and the weight. But when he came back to work the first time he wasn't pushing off properly. We checked him carefully, and couldn't find anything."

In his other three starts this year, all at Woodbine, Strut the Stage won the Chinese Cultural Centre and Niagara Breeders' Cup, and was second to Perfect Soul in the Prince Edward Breeders' Cup. In his career, the 5-year-old Strut the Stage has won 9 of 19 starts and earned $1.2 million.

Frostad and Sam-Son are still alive in the International, with Portcullis and Shoal Water, both of whom are scheduled to start in the 1 1/2-mile race for 3-year-olds and up.

Ballingarry arrives

Ballingarry, the winner of last year's Canadian International, checked in early Wednesday morning.

A 4-year-old Irish-bred, Ballingarry won the 2002 International for owner Susan Magnier and trainer Aidan O'Brien, but shortly after was sold to California interests. Ballingarry since has made six starts for trainer Laura de Seroux, with his sole victory coming in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes over 1 1/2 miles of turf at Arlington July 5.

"It was a long trip, but he traveled good," said Brian Lynch, an assistant to de Seroux, after Ballingarry was flown from Los Angeles to Lexington, Ky., and then was vanned to Toronto.

Ballingarry jogged over a muddy training track here Wednesday morning.