10/18/2006 12:00AM

Long stretch good for The Last Drop


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The Last Drop has been shunned by the English punters in his last two starts, going off at 100-1 when fourth in the Great Voltigeur and 50-1 when second in the St. Leger.

But The Last Drop, an improving 3-year-old colt by Galileo, is expected to command significantly more respect here Sunday when he goes postward in Woodbine's Grade 1, $2 million Canadian International at 1 1/2 miles on turf.

"He's not a complicated horse," said assistant trainer Ian Willden. "He's a very laid-back horse, and he's settled in here well. He'll like this track, I should think, with its nice, big, long stretch."

Willden worked with the late Duke Campbell here in the late 1960's and has been an assistant to The Last Drop's trainer, Barry Hills, for more than 20 years.

The Last Drop, although a winner of just 1 of 7 starts, ran well to be second in the Group 1 St. Leger at 1 3/4 miles.

Richard Hills, son of Barry Hills, rode The Last Drop for the first time in the St. Leger.

"Richard was basically handy with him turning into the straight," said Willden. "He galloped out most of the way down the straight in front."

The Last Drop will be just the second starter at Woodbine for both Richard and Barry Hills, who teamed up for a second-place finish with Lady Upstage in the 2000 running of the E.P. Taylor Stakes.

There are some significant Canadian connections in The Last Drop's background, however, as one of his owners is Cavendish Investments Ltd., the European nom du course of Dick Bonnycastle.

Bonnycastle, an Albertan, races and breeds in Canada as Harlequin Ranches and also is chairman of the Jockey Club of Canada.

Drysdale pair on the grounds

Live Life and Aubonne, both trained by Neil Drysdale, arrived at Woodbine on Wednesday for the E.P. Taylor Stakes.

Drysdale, who won the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile with Becrux in September, will be looking for his first win in the Grade 1, $1 million E.P. Taylor, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

"I think both horses like a cut in the grass, and I think they'll both like a mile and a quarter," said Drysdale, who has named Patrick Valenzuela on Live Life and Brice Blanc on Aubonne. Valenzuela rode Becrux in the Woodbine Mile.

Aubonne, a 6-year-old, comes into the E.P. Taylor off a third-place finish in an ungraded 1 3/8-mile turf stakes at Del Mar. Live Life, a good third in the Grade 1 Beverly D. at 1 3/16 miles at Arlington on Aug. 12, returned with an uncharacteristic eighth-place finish under Valenzuela in the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon at 1 1/4 miles at Santa Anita on Sept. 30.

"She likes to run on the lead, and Patrick decided to try and take her back," said Drysdale. "Then he got in a box, and that was the end of it."

Fast Parade set for Nearctic

Fast Parade, trained by Peter Miller, checked into Woodbine on Wednesday and is among the expected multitude of starters for Sunday's Grade 2, $500,000 Nearctic.

Fast Parade will be making his eighth lifetime start at his eighth different racetrack in the Nearctic, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up.

After beginning his career with races at Pleasanton, Santa Rosa, Bay Meadows, and Emerald Downs, Fast Parade was purchased privately by owner Jim McIngvale at the end of his 2-year-old campaign.

Turned over to Miller, Fast Parade won his 3-year-old debut on March 4 in Santa Anita's 6 1/2-furlong Baldwin, which was taken off the turf.

Miller took exception to McIngvale's plan to run Fast Parade in Keeneland's 1 1/16-mile Lexington as a possible stepping-stone to the Kentucky Derby, and their association came to an end.

But then, after watching Fast Parade finish seventh in the April 22 Lexington for trainer Virginia Padgett, Miller called McIngvale to inquire about purchasing the gelding.

A deal was struck, and Fast Parade, racing for owners Gary and Cecil Barber, celebrated his return to Miller's barn with a 3 1/4-length victory in the five-furlong Green Flash at Del Mar on Aug. 16.

The Green Flash marked Fast Parade's first try on turf, and he set a track record of 54.75 seconds.

"I always thought he'd like turf; that's why I entered him in the Baldwin," said Miller. "But I knew he'd run on dirt, so I kept him in there and he ran a big race."

Following the Green Flash, Miller began searching for another turf sprint for Fast Parade and found the Nearctic an attractive option.

"This is a big one," said Miller, who has enlisted Valenzuela to ride.

Catch the Thrill looks dangerous

Saturday's $250,000 Princess Elizabeth Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies, has attracted a field of nine, including two entrants apiece from the barns of Roger Attfield and Mark Casse.

Boldly Seductive and Dancer's Fan, the Attfield fillies, and Quiet Action and Simply Stylish, trained by Casse, all should attract support in the wide-open Princess Elizabeth.

But there is another dangerous presence in Catch the Thrill, who will be trying a surface other than turf for the first time while making her fourth start. She is owned by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Mark Frostad.

After finishing second in her six-furlong opener, Catch the Thrill won her maiden at seven furlongs but then finished seventh of 11 in the Grade 3 Natalma at one mile.

"She had a terrible trip in the Natalma," said Frostad. "She was steadied coming out of the gate, and was on her nose for about six strides. But she came out of it well, and she's worked well on Polytrack."

Catch the Thrill, who will be ridden by Robert Landry, is by A.P. Indy out of Canadian champion Catch the Ring.

Vestrey Lady heads to Keeneland

Vestrey Lady, a Kentucky-bred 3-year-old filly who is owned by Harlequin Ranches, left Wednesday morning for Keeneland and her engagement in Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 Raven Run.

Trained by Reade Baker, Vestrey Lady will be seeking her third consecutive stakes win in the Raven Run, a seven-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies.

Vestrey Lady won the Duchess at 7 1/2 furlongs of the inner track here Aug. 12 and the La Lorgnette at 1 1/16 miles on Polytrack here Sept. 23.