09/12/2006 11:00PM

Becrux well-connected for Woodbine Mile


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Few would be surprised if they ever decided to rename the Woodbine Mile the Drysdale Mile. It would only be appropriate, since trainer Neil Drysdale has won three of the nine runnings of the $1 million turf race, if you include the 1999 edition, in which Hawksley Hill was disqualified and placed fourth because his rider's whip struck a rival in the stretch.

Drysdale will send out Becrux in Sunday's renewal. Becrux, a listed winner in his native Italy, should be competitive off his closing runner-up placing in the local prep for the Woodbine Mile, the seven-furlong Play the King Stakes. He has remained at Woodbine since that Grade 2 race, and had an easy six-furlong work over the main turf course last Friday.

Becrux won his first start as a gelding July 29 at Del Mar in the one-mile Wickerr Handicap, in which he defeated next-out winners Stormin Away and Unfurl the Flag.

The other California-based possibilities in the race are Sweet Return and Captain Kurt.

Sweet Return chased home North America's leading turf miler, Aragorn, in each of his last two outings, finishing second in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap and fourth in the Grade 2 Del Mar BC Handicap. He hasn't found the mark since his front-running triumph in the 2005 Eddie Read, and has a mediocre record when competing outside California.

In his North American debut, the New Zealand-bred Captain Kurt was a narrowly beaten second to Unfurl the Flag in an allowance/optional claimer at Del Mar.

The New York-based prospects for the race are Remarkable News, Three Valleys, Diamond Green, and Rebel Rebel.

Remarkable News edged Woodbine's top turf miler, Le Cinquieme Essai, when capturing the Grade 3 Connaught Cup Stakes here in May. He set a soft pace and never looked back when winning the Grade 2 Fourstardave at Saratoga most recently.

Three Valleys won the Grade 3 Oceanport Stakes in his lone appearance this year at Monmouth. His trainer, Bobby Frankel, won the 2000 Woodbine Mile with 10-1 shot Riviera.

Frankel is also running Diamond Green, who was third in both the Fourstardave and the Grade 2 King Edward BC Stakes here in July.

Rebel Rebel comes off a third-place finish in the Aug. 6 Oceanport. He previously won the Grade 3 Poker Handicap at Belmont.

Chicago shipper Therecomesatiger out-nodded Le Cinquieme Essai for the victory in the Aug. 5 Sea O'Erin BC Mile Handicap at Arlington.

No Europeans have won the Woodbine Mile after shipping directly from across the pond, a trend which Ad Valorem and Vanderlin will try to buck on Sunday.

Trained by Aidan O'Brien, Ad Valorem won the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes over good-to-firm footing in his penultimate start at Ascot. He then ran fifth over soft ground most recently in a Group 1 fixture in France, and would prefer firm turf.

Vanderlin was a troubled fourth in the 2005 Woodbine Mile. His lone win in four starts this year came in a listed race over Lingfield's all-weather surface.

Woodbine-based runners have won the Mile twice, but this year's contingent is quite weak.

Two Win 4's have guaranteed pools

There will be two guaranteed Win 4's on Sunday's card. The first, which encompasses races 4-7, has a guaranteed pool of $50,000. The second, which includes the Woodbine Mile, covers races 6-9 and has a guaranteed pool of $100,000.

Bias occurs on Polytrack, too

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Woodbine's Polytrack surface, which debuted Aug. 30, is that it has produced the occasional bias. Closers fared very well during the first two days over the all-weather track, which got much quicker Sept. 3 after some rainfall.

Front-runners were dominant on the Wednesday evening card Sept. 6, but the track played fair the following afternoon on a sunny day.

Brian Jabelmann, Woodbine's director of racing surfaces, said Polytrack gets faster when it is wet and when the weather cools off. He also said it slows down when the conditions are warm and dry.

"If the temperature is cooler, and if the track is wet, it will be faster," Jabelmann said. "The more rain, the better it gets, and if it cools down, the wax congeals a little and it gets firmer. It's designed to handle water. It's the exact opposite of a normal dirt surface, where you try to shallow it up so it doesn't get deep. When [Polytrack] is wet, you try to deepen it up a little, because you don't want it to compact too much."

Jabelmann said the track will speed up as the weather gets colder. "We might have to cut it a bit more," he said. "As long as we don't overwork it, we'll be fine."