09/14/2006 11:00PM

Drysdale arrives to saddle Becrux


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Neil Drysdale, a regular visitor for the Woodbine Mile, was at Woodbine Friday morning to renew acquaintances with Becrux.

Based in California, Becrux checked in to Woodbine on Aug. 21 and prepped for the Woodbine Mile with a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Play the King over seven furlongs of turf here on Aug. 26.

"He looks well," said Drysdale, who had starters in seven of nine previous Woodbine Miles, winning the race with Labeeb in 1998 and Touch of the Blues in 2003 and watching Hawskley Hill finish first in 1999 but be disqualified and placed fourth.

Becrux, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Team Valor and Gary Barber, would appear to have some work to do before being mentioned in the same breath as those runners. Drysdale is loath to compare horses.

"I liked the way he ran in the Wickerr," said Drysdale, who began entertaining serious thoughts of the Woodbine Mile after Becrux won that restricted stakes over one mile of turf at Del Mar on July 26.

"The horse seems to be improving; he's learning to relax now. Before, he wanted to do a bit too much."

Becrux stayed on at Woodbine following the Play the King and, according to Drysdale, his preparations have gone according to schedule.

"He worked an easy half, a steady three-quarters, and then came back and blew out a sharp half," said Drysdale. "That was the plan."

Planning beyond the Woodbine Mile is another story, although Drysdale did say that if Becrux runs well Sunday he might remain here to prepare for Keeneland's Oct. 7 Shadwell Turf Mile.

"I've done it with other horses over the years," said Drysdale, citing Touch of the Blues as one example.

After finishing a close fifth here in the 2002 Woodbine Mile, Touch of the Blues ran a close second in the Shadwell, then ran 10th over yielding turf in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Arlington.

Following his 2003 Woodbine Mile victory, Touch of the Blues ran third at Keeneland and then was a close second in the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita.

Remarkable News has feet, will travel

Remarkable News checked in for the Woodbine Mile early Friday morning; his trainer, Angel Penna, arrived the previous evening.

"He's pretty alert," said Penna. "He's a good traveler, that's one thing about him. You see his record, he's won at six different racetracks. He's a tourist."

Remarkable News, a 4-year-old colt, debuted last summer with a second-place finish at Saratoga and has since won races at Belmont, Aqueduct, Gulfstream, Keeneland, Woodbine, and Saratoga. In his three losses, Remarkable News ran second or third.

Still, despite the versatility and consistency of Remarkable News, and his status as the lukewarm favorite in the Woodbine Mile, Penna was downplaying his chances.

"The only problem we have here is the field," said Penna. "It's very tough."

Three using Canadian as springboard

While the Woodbine Mile will command most of the attention here on Sunday, the Canadian Stakes on the same card is also a worthy feature. The Grade 2, $300,000 Canadian, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares, is the major local prep for the Grade 1, $1 million E.P. Taylor, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for fillies and mares on Oct. 22.

And while the Taylor undoubtedly will draw some strong new shooters, Ambitious Cat, Arravale, and Almerita are looking to use the Canadian as a launchpad to the seven-figure race.

Ambitious Cat, owned by Chiefswood Stable and trained by Eric Coatrieux, finished a close third in last year's E.P. Taylor and went on to be voted Canada's champion turf filly or mare despite not having won a stakes race.

Arravale, owned by Bob Costigan and trained by Mac Benson, has started just once in Canada and will be looking to dethrone Ambitious Cat with big efforts in the Canadian and E.P. Taylor.

Almerita, who arrived from Germany last week and will be making her North American debut, has no Sovereign Award aspirations, but in the long term certainly has an eye on the E.P. Taylor.

Arravale will be facing older rivals for the first time, but Benson has few qualms on that count. "If you're ever going to do it, this is the time to do it, in the fall of the year," he said Benson.

Almerita, trained by Waldemar Hickst, appears to have adapted well to her new surroundings.

"She's traveled really well," said Hickst, speaking through interpreter Jim Stoehr of Woodbine. "She's striding really well over the course.

"She likes soft turf, or better. She comes from out of it, or runs from in front. She's just a nice filly."

Almerita, Streets Ahead tour wet turf

Almerita was one of three horses that recorded workouts during training time on a yielding main turf course here Friday. Almerita breezed five furlongs in 1:03.20.

Streets Ahead, here from England for Sunday's Summer Stakes, joined Almerita and also was clocked in 1:03.20. Trained by Andrew Balding, who will send out Vanderlin for the Woodbine Mile, Streets Ahead will be one of the favorites for the Grade 3 Summer, a one-mile turf race for 2-year-olds.

Rebel Rebel, who arrived Thursday night for the Woodbine Mile, breezed three furlongs in 36.60 seconds.

Harrow break eliminated

Woodbine has dropped its practice of having a half-hour harrow break on the Polytrack surface during training hours after just one day.

With the vast majority of horses now going to the main track rather than the training track, congestion after the break on Thursday was much worse than in the past.

The consensus among trainers was that no harrow break was required, according to Chris Evans, Woodbine's vice president, Thoroughbred racing.