Portcullis, Strut the Stage Formidable in Niagara BC

When it comes to a high-profile event such as Saturday's $337,200 Niagara Breeders' Cup Stakes (Can-II) at Woodbine, running two horses is definitely better than one. If those horses happen to be Portcullis and Strut the Stage, the odds get even better.

Trainer Mark Frostad and Sam-Son Farm have pretty much owned the Niagara Breeders' Cup since 1996 (four wins, two thirds), including Full Of Wonder's impressive score in last year's edition of the annual turf race.

From Desert Waves four-straight top-three finishes (1994-97) to Chief Bearhart's big score in 1998, the red and gold have been as good as gold on the green.

With Portcullis, last year's Sovereign Award winner as top male turf horse, and Strut the Stage, a million-dollar earner, in the arsenal for this year's 1 ½-mile tilt, there's every reason to be optimistic for another trip to the winner's circle.

"We've been blessed in recent years with a lot of very good distance horses – very well-bred ones like Chief Bearhart and Full Of Wonder," said Frostad, who has 28 wins through Aug. 27, 22 of which have come on turf. "You can't train them to go a mile-and-a-half. They either go the mile-and-a-half or they don't. It's nice when you get one that can do that."

Or in this instance, two.

"Portcullis has developed nicely," Frostad said. "He had some sinus problems earlier in the year that we had to get cleared up. It's just taken him a while to get back. He's going to be a nice horse for a long time, we hope, he's just doing well. He's pretty laid-back and very easy to train."

Portcullis heads into Saturday's added-money event off an extremely impressive showing, a five-wide rally on Aug. 3 at Woodbine that resulted in a 1 ¾-length win.

"Any time you get a three-year-old into their four-year-old year, it's a huge step up in competition. He took a while to get fit and that was only his third start of the year. He appears to be fit, he's training well and he's happy."

Small in stature, Strut the Stage, who has $1,047,298 in lifetime earnings, comes off an equally strong performance, a 1 ½-length win in the Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes, contested July 20 at the Toronto oval.

"Strut the Stage is training very well," said Frostad, of the 5-year-old son of Theatrical. "It took him one start to get ready this year. He was second (June 15, King Edward Breeders' Cup) and then ran a big race in the Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes.

"Any time you get a horse that wins a million dollars, you've got to like him. He's a good little horse. He trains very eagerly and gets really pumped up for the races. He loves the game."

Running as separate bettering interests, don't expect Sam-Son's one-two punch to have a singular game plan come this weekend.

"They're both going to run their own races," their trainer said. "The way Portcullis ran his last race, he could be dangerous. Strut the Stage is carrying a lot of weight, but he should be pretty effective on Saturday, too."

$337,200 Niagara Breeders Cup Stakes (Can-II), 3 & up, 1 1/2 mile on turf
PP / Horse / Trainer / Jockey
1 / Mark One / Dan Vella / Robert Landry
2 / Cetewayo / Michael Dickinson / David Clark
3 / Bowman Mill / Michael Dickinson / Jim McKnight
4 / Portcullis / Mark Frostad / Slade Callaghan
5 / Strut the Stage / Mark Frostad / Todd Kabel
6 / Dr. Kashnikow / John Fisher / Richard Dos Ramos
7 / Better Talk Now / Graham Motion / Rene Douglas
8 / Revved Up / Christophe Clement / Patrick Husbands
9 / Stage Classic / David Cotey / Constant Montpellier
10 / Jack's Own Time / James Toner / Emile Ramsammy