In his first start of 2003, Strut The Stage ran well to finish in the runner-up spot. On Sunday at Woodbine, he was one better.Coming off a solid second-place finish in the King Edward Breeders' Cup Stakes on June 15 at Woodbine, Strut The Stage made his second start of the season a an impressive one, winning the $330,900 Chinese Cultural Center Stakes (Can-II).Rider Todd Kabel had the Sam-Son Farm color bearer flying late over a "firm" Toronto oval E.P. Taylor Turf Course, getting by the talented Perfect Soul (winner of the King Edward Breeders' Cup) to win by 1 ½ length. The time was an exceptional 2:13.85 for the 1 3/8-mile event.
"He's just a tremendous little horse," said Kabel, who picked up his colony-leading 14th stakes win on the season. "He's small, but he has a heavy engine in there. He's all racehorse."It was another Sam-Son horse who took the early lead, as Angel On The Wing, with Laurie Gulas in the irons, cut a quarter-mile clip in :24.25, reaching the half-mile mark in :49.27.Kabel kept Strut The Stage close to the leader and Perfect Soul, the mutuel favorite, before rallying the son of Theatrical on the outside in a perfectly timed bid."I had him (Perfect Soul) measured, but I knew we were going to have a horse race," said the Bolton resident, who finished second aboard Sam-Son's Quiet Resolve in last year's edition of the Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes. "Through the race, I just kept him covered up and buried behind Perfect Soul. He was very relaxed with me." It was the eighth lifetime victory in 17 starts for the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred who won the Dixie Handicap at Pimlico and Sky Classic Stakes in 2002."We're thrilled," said owner Tammy Samuel-Balaz. "I think he ran a fantastic race and Todd (rider Kabel) did a great job."The victory, worth $198,540, raises Strut The Stage's lifetime earnings past the $1 million mark, to $1,047,298.Portcullis, another Sam-Son entrant, finished fourth.Strut The Stage paid $6.10, $3.00 and $3.00 across the board, combining with Perfect Soul ($2.50, $2.10) for an $11.90 exacta. Angel On The Wing ($6.90) completed a $98.20 trifecta.