05/23/2007 12:00AM

Becrux seeks return to form


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - For trainer Neil Drysdale, the Grade 2 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields in April remains something of a puzzle. He had two starters - one ran too poorly to be true, the other better than expected.

Vega's Lord, a 10-1 outsider in a field of five, finished second, a nose behind Chinese Dragon. Drysdale's other runner, Becrux, the even-money favorite, finished last, beaten more than 22 lengths.

Becrux and Vega's Lord return in Monday's $300,000 Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile on turf at Hollywood Park. This time, Drysdale is confident that both can run well.

Becrux, the winner of the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile last September, is the more accomplished of the pair, and will need to be at his best to beat an outstanding field in the Shoemaker.

Aside from the Drysdale pair, the probable starters in the Grade 1 Shoemaker include Kip Deville, winner of three consecutive graded stakes, as well as Charmo, Chinese Dragon, Get Funky, Right Special, The Tin Man, and Willow O Wisp.

Becrux made his first start of 2007 in the San Francisco Mile, a race that Drysdale has thrown out.

"He bobbled and he did something," Drysdale said. "He lost his confidence. I don't know what went wrong. He's trained well since the race."

Becrux, 5, had the lead in the San Francisco Mile, but has stalked the pace in most of his starts. In the Woodbine Mile, he was at the back of the field for the first six furlongs, but was never farther than four lengths behind the pace.

"There'll be plenty of pace in the field," Drysdale said of the Shoemaker Mile. "Maybe he doesn't like being on the lead."

Vega's Lord will not be far from the front in the Shoemaker, where Get Funky, The Tin Man, and Willow O Wisp are expected to contribute to the pace. In the San Francisco Mile, Vega's Lord led by a length in the stretch.

A German-bred, the 4-year-old Vega's Lord won five times in Germany in 2005 and 2006, including one stakes. The narrow loss in the San Francisco Mile was arguably the best performance of his career, and a race that certainly earned Drysdale's respect.

"Maybe his career is just starting," Drysdale said. He smiled, and did not elaborate.

Handle increase leads to purse surplus

An increase in handle during the first month of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting has left a surplus in the purse pool, according to racing secretary Martin Panza.

While the amount is not enough for an overall purse increase, Panza said the boost in revenue has allowed him to write races of higher quality. On Thursday's program, for example, three allowance races were offered. Typically, there would be one or two on such a program.

"Normally, I wouldn't do that," Panza said of writing three allowance races. "I'm underpaid, but not underpaid a lot."

An increase in average field size, from 8 to 8.4 through Sunday, has helped business, Panza said. More starters equate to more opportunities for bettors and higher handle.

"If you're up half a horse, it shows," he said. "If I can stay at 8.4 or 8.5, that will be good. You want the number higher? I can write a bunch of maiden 25 [thousand claimers]. I'm writing a hell of a lot more allowance races than before. That's important if you want to upgrade the races."

Field sizes have not been as robust this week. Wednesday's first two races had five and six starters. Thursday's card has one five-horse field and two with six. Friday's eight-race card has two five-horse fields and one with six.

Panza wishes the field sizes were larger.

"The disappointing thing is, every day in Southern California there are 250 horses working and I can't get 60 to run," Panza said.

From May 15 through Tuesday, there was an average of 229 workouts per day at Hollywood Park and Santa Antia.

Saturday's entries are stronger. The nine-race program has 82 entries, but a maximum of 79 will start since one race that will be limited to 10 starters has drawn 13 entrants.

C.T. Zee returns in $51,000 allowance

C.T. Zee, second by a nose in the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes on April 29, returns in a $51,000 allowance race for California-breds at 1o1/16 miles in Friday's second race.

Once again, he will face a test in an effort to win the second race of his career. Friday's field includes Stormy Grant, the flashy winner of a maiden race for statebreds at Santa Anita on April 19, and the unbeaten Boppa Bob, a former maiden claimer.

C.T. Zee was making his first start against winners when he lost to Leesider in the Snow Chief for statebred 3-year-olds. He had won a $75,000 claiming race for maidens at Santa Anita in February.

C.T. Zee set the pace in the Snow Chief Stakes, but may not need to use those tactics Friday. He starts from the outside post in a field of six, and can stalk Prowling Cat, Stormy Grant, and Boppa Bob, who also have shown speed.

Trainer Nick Hines said that C.T. Zee's loss in the Snow Chief took its toll but that the gelding has rebounded.

"In time, I think he'll get better," Hines said.

Leesider set to meet Cobalt Blue in Alydar

Leesider is one of eight entrants in Saturday's $75,000 Alydar Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles, a race that has drawn Cobalt Blue, who was considered for the Kentucky Derby until a few days before that race.

The winner of the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita in March, Cobalt Blue finished seventh as the even-money favorite in the Grade 2 Illinois Derby. A few days before the Kentucky Derby, trainer Doug O'Neill and owner Merv Griffin said they did not feel that Cobalt Blue was training well enough to start in the Kentucky Derby.

Leesider is one of four runners from the Snow Chief in the Alydar. The field will also include Tap It Light (fourth), Pirates Deputy (fifth), and Freesgood (seventh).