08/31/2006 11:00PM

Cal invader Becrux staying for Woodbine Mile


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Becrux, who finished second to Le Cinquieme Essai in the Play the King here at Woodbine last Saturday, remains in town to run the $1 million Woodbine Mile on Sept. 17.

A 4-year-old gelding who has been based with trainer Neil Drysdale in California, Becrux arrived at Woodbine on Aug. 21 for the Play the King, a Grade 2, seven-furlong turf race which is the major local prep for the Woodbine Mile.

Becrux is one of 31 nominees to the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, which will head a blockbuster tripleheader of turf stakes that includes the Grade 2, $300,000 Canadian for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles and the Grade 3, $250,000 Summer for 2-year-olds at one mile.

On Friday, Becrux was out on the turf training track for a leisurely four-furlong breeze in 52.60 under exercise rider John McInerny.

"It was perfect," said McInerny, who spoke on the phone with Drysdale before and after the work. "Just something to keep him relaxed - he did it easy, and was very happy doing it."

McInerny has been the go-to morning man for many previous Drysdale visitors, including 2003 Woodbine Mile winner Touch of the Blues and last year's fifth-place finisher, King of Happiness.

Groom Hector Meaia, who accompanied Becrux on his trip east, was here last year for Drysdale with King of Happiness and Always First, who did not race as planned in the Sky Classic.

Horse breaks down training on Polytrack

Sarouk, an unraced 3-year-old trained by Reade Baker, broke down while training over Woodbine's Polytrack surface on Friday morning and had to be euthanized.

"He fractured both sesamoids, in the middle of a work, right at the eighth pole," said Baker. "Poly's not invincible."

Sarouk, a son of Bold Executive, was owned by Curraghmore Farm and Formal Stable.

DePaulo-trained 2-year-old runs loose

Another potentially tragic situation during training hours had a happy ending, as Valcas, a 2-year-old trained by Mike DePaulo, emerged unscathed from a frightening adventure.

Valcas was on his way to the Polytrack to work from the gate when he got loose in the tunnel, wheeled around, and made a sharp left when he reached the horse path on the backstretch.

DePaulo, along with owner Frank Russo, was positioned at the top of the far turn to watch the workout.

"Next thing I know somebody says, 'Hey, DePaulo, there's your horse,' " said the trainer, who turned to see Valcas streak past and head straight out the east gate to the backstretch.

DePaulo caught a ride from trainer Danny Vella, who happened to be driving by at that moment, and gave chase.

Valcas, meanwhile, ran around on the grassy hills across the road from the backstretch and bordering the busy Highway 27 as DePaulo, Vella, and other horsemen and Woodbine employees gave chase.

While Valcas was caught and appeared none the worse for wear, Vella came up limping, and feared that he might have torn a calf muscle.

Changes on yearling stakes day card

Monday is yearling sales stakes day here, with six $125,000 stakes restricted to horses that went through the ring at a local Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society yearling sale.

Besides running on Polytrack, another change this year is that three of the stakes are being run at different distances than in years past.

The Muskoka, for 2-year-old fillies, and the Simcoe, for 2-year-old colts and geldings, were traditionally run over seven furlongs, but will go at 6 1/2 furlongs this year because the seven-furlong chute on the Polytrack layout is not yet finished.

The other distance switch involves the Halton, formerly a 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up, but to be run at one mile on the grass on Monday.

"The change was made at the request of the CTHS," said Chris Evans, Woodbine's vice president, Thoroughbred racing. "It had been coming up with light fields for years and years; they thought a mile would be more popular."

That notion seems to have been justified, at least for this year's Halton, as a field of nine was drawn. The three latest runnings of the Halton went off with fields of five, four, and six, respectively.

V S O P Please ailing, out of Kenora

It's possible that no one had been looking forward to yearling sales stakes day longer than trainer Jody Hammett, who had been pointing V S O P Please to the six-furlong Kenora for several months.

But V S O P Please, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Herbert Chambers who was undefeated in three career appearances here this spring, will not make the Kenora despite Hammett's best efforts.

"He came up with a pus pocket," said Hammett, adding that he had no set timetable for V S O P Please's return to action.

Hammett and Chambers suffered a far more serious loss last month with the death of Midnight Romp, a 3-year-old gelding who had been undefeated in two starts since being claimed for $20,000 at Woodbine on June 15. Midnight Romp was entered to run Aug. 20.

"He ended up getting colic and his appendix burst," said Hammett. "There was no saving him. It's a shame; he was such a good horse."

Midnight Romp, whose wins for Hammett came for $47,500 and $32,000 claiming prices, won 5 of 13 starts and ran second on three other occasions while banking $121,328.

Funeral mass Tuesday for Josie Lomon

A funeral mass will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday for Josie Lomon, wife of Chris Lomon of Woodbine's media communications department. Josie Lomon died Wednesday, following a battle with pancreatic cancer She leaves two children, Matthew, 6, and Sarah, 3.

The funeral will take place at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, 5440 Durie Road, Mississauga. Visitation is at Neweduk Funeral Home, 1981 Dundas Street West, Mississauga, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday.