10/08/2008 11:00PM

Class question for Monsoon Rain

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Monsoon Rain brings sharp form and improving Beyer Speed Figures to Saturday's Grade 3, $150,000 Durham Cup Stakes at Woodbine but he is the obvious X-factor in the nine-furlong event.

Monsoon Rain has won his last five starts, but all have come on the dirt at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg and he'll be facing much tougher competition here. His streak began in a six-furlong allowance Julyo11, and he doubled up 11 days later in a 1o1/16-mile optional claimer.

Monsoon Rain captured the one-mile Wheat City Stakes and the 1 1/16-mile R.J. Speers Stakes in August. Most recently, on Sept. 21, he blew away the field in the nine-furlong Gold Cup, scoring by 11 lengths in a time of 1:51.20. The 105 Beyer he was awarded was one of the highest earned by any horse in Canada this year.

Trainer Marty Drexler said he was taken aback by the triple-digit Beyer that Monsoon Rain got in the $74,250 Gold Cup.

"I thought he'd run well, but you don't ever expect to run a 105 in Winnipeg," Drexler admitted. "He was always meant to be good, but he got hurt at some point. He's the real deal."

Drexler said he hasn't trained Monsoon Rain too hard on the Polytrack since shipping to Woodbine, but he is optimistic that the 6-year-old will take to the synthetic surface in competition.

"He's pretty fit, and we didn't want to set him down too much," Drexler said. "He open galloped a strong mile [Monday]. He finished up strong and seemed to handle it really well. The fact that he's liked the turf in the past might also bode well for him."

There is little speed in the Durham field, and Drexler believes Monsoon Rain's tactical speed is one of his main assets.

"I think he'll put himself in a pretty decent position," Drexler said.

Palladio, Canada's champion 3-year-old in 2005, should be a major Durham player.

Palladio was a respectable third behind Artie Hot and True Metropolitan when returning from a long layoff in the July 27 Seagram Cup Stakes. In his lone subsequent start, in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, he wound up seventh after racing wide over an inside-favoring turf course.

"He's been doing great for quite a while," trainer Roger Attfield said. "He's been wanting to go to the races."

Artie Hot posted a 10-1 upset in the Gradeo3 Seagram Cup but was a flat fifth most recently in the Lake Erie Stakes at Presque Isle Downs.