09/04/2001 11:00PM

Is Drysdale's Atto Mile nightmare to end?


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - No one in Sunday's Atto Mile has had more ups and downs in the race than trainer Neil Drysdale.

He sent out Labeeb to win a thrilling 1998 edition of the Mile. His Hawksley Hill finished first in 1999, but was disqualified and placed fourth when the stewards ruled that his rider, Pat Day, had hit one of his rivals with his whip.

Drysdale was back last year with Kahal, who got caught in a speed duel and faded to finish 11th in a field of 13.

This year, Drysdale saddles the probable Atto Mile favorite, Irish Prize, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Gainsborough Farm.

Irish Prize comes in with a record of eight wins and earnings of $848,513 from 20 starts, all on turf.

A full brother to Hatoof, winner of the E.P. Taylor Stakes here in 1992, Irish Prize began his career with trainer Christiane Head in France, but was sent to Drysdale on the West Coast after his 3-year-old season.

After a solid but unspectacular 2000 campaign, in which he won three of eight starts and $170,020, Irish Prize caught fire this year.

Irish Prize's year began on New Year's Day, with a win in Santa Anita's Grade 2 San Gabriel over 1 1/8 miles. But then he was off until April 28, when he ran fourth in the Grade 2 San Francisco Handicap over a mile at Bay Meadows.

He then went on a streak, winning the Fastness, Shoemaker Mile, and Firecracker, all graded races, in succession.

The three straight wins also coincide with Irish Prize's association with jockey Gary Stevens, who will be looking for his first Atto Mile win on Sunday.

Irish Prize was entered in the Eddie Read Handicap, a 1 1/8 mile turf race at Del Mar July 28, but was scratched.

"We didn't think he was at his best," said Drysdale. "The trip to Kentucky [for the Firecracker] took more out of him than we anticipated. He still won, but he didn't handle the course; it was sandy.

"So we thought we'd just wait for the Atto Mile - that was his goal, not the Eddie Read."

Drysdale is confident that Irish Prize will have no problems with the Woodbine surface.

"We haven't had a horse go up to Canada that didn't like the course yet," he said. "I don't know that I've heard of horses not liking that racecourse."

Stevens to ride Louve Mysterieuse

Accompanying Irish Prize on the trip to Woodbine was Louve Mysterieuse, who will run in the Grade 2 Canadian Handicap Sunday.

The Canadian, worth $200,000, is a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

A 5-year-old mare owned by Gary Tanaka, Louve Mysterieuse also began her career in France and competed in the 1999 Breeders' Cup Distaff at Gulfstream Park, finishing seventh for her former trainer Andre Fabre.

After missing all of 2000, Louve Mysterieuse made her debut for Drysdale at Santa Anita this winter, and has won one of six starts, and ran second twice, while never finishing worse than fourth and earning $75,636.

Stevens will ride Louve Mysterieuse, who also is nominated to the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor, a $500,000, 1 1/4-mile turf race for fillies and mares here Sept. 30.

Cayman Sunset makes the trip

While there are no European shippers in the Atto Mile this year, Cayman Sunset has arrived from England for the Canadian.

A 4-year-old filly owned by Martyn Burke and trained by Edward Dunlop, Cayman Sunset is here with assistant trainer Peter Boothman and groom Patricia Evens.

Cayman Sunset is coming off a 12th-place finish in a Group 3 stakes in Norway Aug. 26.

"The ground came up very heavy there, which is totally against her," said Boothman, who points out Cayman Sunset had been a good fourth before that in the Group 1 Nassau over 1 1/4 miles of good going at Goodwood.

Cayman Sunset finished 5 1/2 lengths behind Lailani, who also is trained by Dunlop and was coming off a victory in the Irish Oaks.

"She runs her best races from behind," said Boothman, adding that Cayman Sunset would be racing with Lasix for the first time Sunday. Patrick Husbands has the mount.

Current plans call for Cayman Sunset to remain at Woodbine for the E.P. Taylor. Lailani also is nominated to the Taylor but might run at Belmont Park a day earlier in the Flower Bowl instead.

New York-based trainer Bill Mott will be represented in both 2-year-old stakes here this weekend. He's entered Global Vision in Saturday's Grade 3 Natalma and Miesque's Approval in Sunday's Grade 2 Summer, both races at a mile on turf.

Global Vision, owned by Bruce Lunsford, won her maiden last time out at six furlongs on turf at Belmont July 13, and will be ridden by Gary Boulanger.

Miesque's Approval, owned by Live Oak Plantation, graduated impressively at 1 1/16 miles on grass at Saratoga in his last start, on Aug. 13. He will be ridden by Saratoga record-setting jockey Jerry Bailey, who will ride Affirmed Success in the Atto Mile.