A pair of rivals on last year's Canadian Triple Crown path decided the $333,300 Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes (Can-II) Sunday when Shoal Water edged Mobil by a neck at Woodbine.The pair dueled for the entire 1 3/8-mile event, with Shoal Water proving to be just a little better in a turf course-record time of 2:12.37Todd Kabel rode the son of Smart Strike to the win for trainer Mark Frostad.Mobil, under Jono Jones, established the early lead in the race, cutting splits of :24.19 and :48.56 and 1:12.72, but Shoal Water was never less 1 1/2 lengths behind.With no challengers from off the pace menacing, Shoal Water made a bid for the lead and seized a length advantage in mid-stretch. Mobil came back on, but it was not enough. Shoal Water earned the second stakes win of his career.Strut The Stage was the best of the rest, followed by Control Tower and turf stakes winners Perfect Soul, Slew Valley, Bowman Mill and Cetewayo.Frostad acknowledged the battle between the two made for sweaty palms. "He wasn't much the best as Mobil dug back in and gave us quite a scare coming back in the last few yards, but (Shoal Water) hung on. He ran a great race."Shoal Water, who won the 2003 Saranac (gr. IIIT) at Saratoga, has been competitive in the older turf horse ranks, finishing third in the Connaught Cup (Can-III) in May and second last time out in King Edward Breeders' Cup (Can-II) in June. But this was his day, according to Kabel.
"Today he was full of run, he always is, but he's been unfortunate," Kabel said. "He just missed by inches in both his last two races. Today was his game day and he showed up. He was great."Shoal Water shaved over six-tenths of a second off the previous Woodbine record set by Strike Smartly, who went 1 3/8 miles in 2:13.00 on July 21, 2002.Shoal Water, who collected $199,980 to raise his career earnings to $748,464, is expected to start next in the Niagara Breeders' Cup Stakes (Can-II) at Woodbine on Labor Day Sept. 6.He paid $12.70, $5.70, $5.40 across the board and combined with Mobil ($7.90, $5.90) for a $79.00 exacta. Strut The Stage ($5.50), off a 10-month layoff, rounded out the $515.40 trifecta.(Chart, Equibase)