Sam-Son Farm's Strut the Stage flashed his best stuff Monday on the Woodbine turf, capturing the $324,000 Niagara Breeders' Cup Handicap (Can-II) in impressive fashion for the second straight year.Despite carrying the high weight of 121 pounds for the 1 1/2-mile turf event, Strut the Stage, a 6-year-old son of Theatrical, was sent postward as the overwhelming 1-5 choice over five rivals.With jockey Todd Kabel patiently biding his time at the back of the pack early behind pacesetters Control Tower and Sam-Son stablemate Longship, Strut the Stage moved effortlessly to challenge the leaders turning into the long E.P. Taylor Turf Course stretch. After collaring Longship and Mark One, he sprinted away to win by four lengths in 2:25.87, just one-fifth off the track record. Colorful Judgement, a third Sam-Son silk-bearer, was second, while third betting choice Mark One, with Jim McAleney aboard, wound up in the show position.It was the second consecutive Niagara Breeders' Cup win and tenth career triumph for the multiple stakes winner, who came into the Niagara off a third-place finish to stablemate Shoal Water in the Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes July 25. That was Strut the Stage's first race of the 2004 campaign.This was also the third consecutive year that Sam-Son, trainer Mark Frostad and jockey Todd Kabel teamed to win the Niagara. In 2002, the trio did it with Full Of Wonder. Sam-Son and Frostad also won this race three years running from 1996-98, twice with Desert Waves and once with Chief Bearhart. Another Sam-Son runner, Tot Of Rum, took the 1991 renewal of the Niagara."This horse is very special in the barn," praised Kabel, of the Kentucky-bred, who was away from racing action for 10 months after being injured in the fall of 2003. "It's nice to have him back, it was a long wait for him. I know I missed him all year, but it's nice to see him come back with this victory and hopefully everything goes well for him."Kabel has a colony-leading 27 added-money wins on the season, leaving the Toronto oval's leading rider just five away from the late Avelino Gomez' mark of 32 set in 1966. He won four races on the afternoon, after winning five times on Sunday.
"He ran a super race last time and he badly needed that one," added Frostad, of the Chinese Cultural Centre effort. "He got pretty tired in that race. He got a little tired in this one at the end, but he was back and he ran a great race." Strut the Stage, who earned $194,400 for the victory, returned $2.50, $2.10 and $2.10, combining with Colorful Judgement ($4.20, $2.70) for a $9.80 exacta. Mark One ($2.30) completed a $25.60 trifecta.(Chart, Equibase)