09/11/2007 11:00PM

Becrux carries Drysdale flag

EmailETOBICOKE, Ontario – If California trainer Neil Drysdale ever decided to sponsor something, the Woodbine Mile would be a no-brainer, because of his tremendous success in the $1 million race. Drysdale’s horses have finished first four of the 10 runnings of the Grade 1 grass event, including the 1999 edition, in which Hawksley Hill was disqualified because his rider’s whip struck a rival in the stretch.

The Drysdale-trained Becrux will try to win the Mile for the second year in a row on Sunday. He used a runner-up finish in a local prep, the Grade 2 Play the King Stakes, as his final tune-up in 2006, but has shipped here directly from Del Mar this year.

Becrux took the restricted Wickerr Handicap for the second straight year on July 27 at Del Mar. He was recently second to the upwardly mobile Crossing the Line in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile.

Horses coming off a race in Southern California have won the Mile four times, and three winners of the race prepped in the one-mile Wickerr.

New York-based runners Remarkable News, Shakespeare, Art Master, Host, and Kip Deville are expected to be in the field.

Remarkable News dueled through fast fractions in the 2006 Mile before weakening to fifth. He led throughout his last outing, the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap June 30 at Churchill, where he earned a lifetime-best Beyer Speed Figure of 110. Expect him to be the pacemaker on Sunday.

Good Journey won the 2002 Mile following a two-month layoff, after winning the one-mile Firecracker.

Shakespeare ran three powerful races in 2005, including a narrow score in the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational, before going to the sidelines with a tendon problem. He resurfaced this summer with a new trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, who sent him out to take a one-mile optional claimer at Saratoga.

Art Master won the Grade 3 Poker Handicap at Belmont in his next-to-last start. His trainer, Bobby Frankel, won the 2000 Mile with 10-1 shot Riviera.

Host came from far back to finish third in the Poker. He wound up third again in his most recent outing, in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga.

Kip Deville lacked room before ending up third last time out in the Grade 3 Oceanport Stakes at Monmouth. His trainer, Richard Dutrow, nearly won the 2006 Mile with Rebel Rebel, who was exiting a third-place finish in the Oceanport.

The leading local miler in the lineup is Le Cinquieme Essai, who was victorious in the last two editions of the Play the King. He was a tired third when he returned from an 11-month layoff in a minor stakes July 21, and should be poised for a peak performance following a front-running tally over soft ground in the seven-furlong Play the King.

Long-distance specialist Sky Conqueror, the reigning champion grass runner in Canada, was also under consideration for the race. His connections were still undecided as of Wednesday morning.

Fresher horses looking better

Horses in the early stage of their form cycles, like Le Cinquieme Essai, are starting to have an impact at this lengthy meeting. Many runners who have been campaigning since the spring are past their peak, and these so-called fresh horses often have an advantage over them.

A prime example of this came with Arch Hall’s allowance victory at 1 1/16 miles Sept. 1. Arch Hall was a nonthreatening sixth when he returned from an eight-month absence in the

6 1/2-furlong Shepperton Stakes Aug. 5, an effort that set him up nicely for the stretch-out to a route. Arch Hall paid a square $8.20 while beating two winter-raced Canadian champions, most notably Palladio.

Queenly Luck was making her third start following a six-month layoff when she won a 1 3/8-mile route for $40,000 conditioned claimers Aug. 31. She won her maiden at 1 1/2 miles last September, and was the only runner in the field with any positive experience over an extended distance, but still returned a generous $13.70.

Projecting improvement in fresh horses is an important part of Handicapping 101, and those who possess considerable back class, such as Arch Hall, usually have the most upside as they proceed through their form cycles.