09/22/2003 11:00PM

Wando to use Indiana Derby as Classic prep

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - There has been a change of plans for Wando, but if all goes well his campaign will still wind up with a Breeders' Cup appearance at Santa Anita Oct. 25.

Wando's road to the Breeders' Cup is about to take a rather unlikely turn with an appearance in the Grade 3, $400,000 Indiana Derby, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race at Hoosier Park on Oct. 4, next on his agenda.

Wando, winner of this year's Canadian Triple Crown, was prepping for a possible appearance in the Breeders' Cup Mile when he ran fourth at Woodbine on Sept. 14 in the Atto Mile, a turf race that was his first try against older horses.

But Gustav Schickedanz, Wando's owner and breeder, has set his sights on the Breeders' Cup Classic, where Wando would again face older rivals but at 1 1/4 miles on the main track.

Wando's trainer, Mike Keogh, said the Indiana Derby is serving a twofold purpose.

"We need to get another race under his belt to go into the Classic," he said. "And if he's not 1-2-3 there, he shouldn't be going [to the Classic] anyway.

Patrick Husbands, Wando's regular jockey, will make the trip to Indiana to ride.

Mobil takes on Strut the Stage

Husbands also has picked up the mount on Mobil, the talented stablemate of Wando who also is about to embark on a new and challenging phase of his campaign.

Mobil's next race is Sunday's Grade 2, $250,000 Sky Classic, a 1 3/8- mile turf race for 3-year-olds and upward. His opponents there will include Strut the Stage, a formidable 5-year-old ridden by Todd Kabel, who also has been Mobil's regular partner.

Although Mobil did defeat older rivals in his last start, the Halton at 1 1/8 miles on the turf here Sept. 1, that stakes was restricted to local yearling sales graduates, and the Sky Classic is a much tougher assignment.

"We can run in here and see if he fares well against older horses," Keogh said.

Following the Sky Classic, Mobil could be off to Illinois for the Grade 3, $250,000 Hawthorne Derby, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds on Oct. 18.

"But if he happened to run a really big race, I might just stay here and run in the International," Keogh said.

The Sky Classic is positioned as the final local tune-up for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Canadian Internation-al, a 1 1/2-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and upward here Oct. 19.

Mobil has been weighted at 113 for the Sky Classic, but Husbands is unlikely to check in at less than 115 pounds.

Mobil went well in his final Sky Classic drill here last Sunday, going six furlongs in 1:12.40 on the fast main track with exercise rider Robin Platts in the irons.

Strut the Stage also had his final major tune-up for the Sky Classic on the main track here Sunday, working five furlongs in 1:01.60 with Kabel aboard.

Coming off back-to-back Grade 2 turf stakes wins here in the 1 3/8-mile Chinese Cultural Centre and the 1 1/2-mile Niagara, Strut the Stage seems to be leniently weighted for the Sky Classic at 123 pounds, the same weight he carried in the Niagara.

Frostad balks at assignment

But Mark Frostad, who trains Strut the Stage for Sam-Son Farm, sees the weights in a different light.

"I think it's silly that he'd have to give a pound to a horse who just won a Grade 1 stakes," said Frostad, referring to Lunar Sovereign, the 122-pound second-highweight in the Sky Classic who is listed to run back in the Grade 1 Turf Classic at Belmont Saturday.

Lunar Sovereign carried scaleweight of 126 pounds to victory in Belmont's Grade 1 Man o' War at 1 3/8 miles on the turf Sept. 6. In his two previous handicap appearances, Lunar Sovereign carried 114 pounds when eighth in Saratoga's Grade 1 Sword Dancer and 112 pounds when a close third in Monmouth's Grade 1 United Nations.

No Comprende Hawthorne Cup-bound

No Comprende, owned by Clarity Stable and trained at Woodbine by Jim Smith, is shipping out Friday for the Hawthorne Gold Cup, a Grade 2 race over 1 1/4 miles on Sunday.

A 5-year-old gelding who has won six of 25 starts and $418,397, No Comprende has placed in three stakes but is still looking for his first added-money victory.

The Hawthorne Gold Cup will be Comprende's second road trip of the year. In his last start he finished fourth in the Grade 2 Saratoga Breeders' Cup over 1 1/4 miles.

While No Comprende was beaten 9 3/4 lengths there at 69-1, he left half the field in his wake, and he ran an erratic course in the stretch.

"I thought he ran great," Smith said. "The jockey [Mike Luzzi] said he had a lot of horse, at the top of the stretch. But once the crowd started screaming he started looking at all the people in the stands and wouldn't focus on running."

Smith said he believes No Comprende is at his best at the Hawthorne Gold Cup's 1 1/4-mile distance and cites the $750,000 purse plus the prospect of a small field as additional reasons for making the trip. He wants to enlist Carlos Marquez Jr. to ride.