09/13/2007 11:00PM

New Yorkers try to topple Becrux

Michael Burns
Becrux returns from California to defend his title in Sunday?s $1 million Woodbine Mile.
ETOBICOKE, Ontario - California invader Becrux will aim for his second straight score in Sunday's $1 million Woodbine Mile, while taking on a quality field which includes New York shippers Shakespeare, Remarkable News, Kip Deville, Art Master, and Host.

The 11th running of the one-turn, Grade 1 turf stakes drew a field of 14 and heads an 11-race card that includes two other stakes, the Grade 2 Canadian and the Grade 3 Summer. The Mile will be run around one turn on Woodbine's sweeping 1 1/2-mile turf course.

Becrux is trained by Neil Drysdale, who has won the Mile a record three times.

Becrux won the 2006 Mile with determination under Patrick Valenzuela, while earning a 106 Beyer Speed Figure. David Flores has the mount on Sunday.

Becrux won the restricted Wickerr Stakes for the second year in a row at Del Mar on July 27. He had a good inside trip most recently in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile, and wound up second by three-quarters of a length to Crossing the Line, who is unbeaten in three starts in California since emigrating from New Zealand

"His last race was one of his best," said Drysdale. "He was giving away seven pounds to a superior horse. I don't think there are many horses that could have given seven pounds to that horse."

Shakespeare took New York by storm in 2005, capping a five-race win streak in the Grade 1 Turf Classic Invitational. He was sidelined for all of 2006 with a tendon problem, and finally resurfaced this summer with a new trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, who sent him out to win a one-mile optional claimer at Saratoga with a 105 Beyer.

"He's come back great," said McLaughlin. "He does things effortlessly. He's a very, very talented horse."

Garrett Gomez retains the mount on the once-beaten Shakespeare.

Remarkable News could lead the way in his first appearance since his dominating triumph in the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap at Churchill, for which he received a 110 Beyer. He got colic after the June 30 Firecracker, and missed a stakes engagement at Saratoga.

Remarkable News took the Gradeo3 Connaught Cup Stakes here in 2006, and was a fading fifth in last year's Mile.

"Last year it was a fast pace, and he was fighting all the way," said trainer Angel Penna Jr. "He just tired in the last sixteenth, but didn't get beat badly. He's a more mature horse this year. He doesn't have to make the lead anymore."

Kip Deville captured three consecutive graded stakes last winter and spring. When returning from a two-month break Aug. 5 at Monmouth, he closed along the rail after lacking room to end up third in the Grade 3 Oceanport Stakes.

"He's kind of a question mark," said trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. "I expected him to win that [last] race. I'm just hoping he runs his race like he did earlier in the year."

Art Master and Host were first and third in the Grade 3 Poker Handicap in July at Belmont. Art Master got a 104 Beyer for winning that one-mile event, and he subsequently finished second in Shakespeare's impressive comeback victory.

Stretch runner Host is exiting a third-place finish in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga.

The venerable Le Cinquieme Essai won the local prep for the Mile, the seven-furlong Play the King Stakes, for the second year in a row in his second start following an 11-month break.

Trainer Paul Neilsen anticipates a stalking trip for Le Cinquieme Essai, after breaking from the outside post in the 14-horse field.

"I'm hoping that he'll be sitting third or fourth, or even a little farther back," said Nielsen. "He's more of a grinder than a 'turn-of-foot horse.' "

Sky Conqueror is shortening up off a disappointing third-place finish in the Grade 2 Nijinsky, which came on the heels of his stirring score in another 1 1/2-mile stakes, the Grade 2 Northern Dancer.

Edgar Prado, Sky Conqueror's rider in those two races, said the horse simply couldn't catch the front-running winner, Last Answer, in the Nijinsky.

"He was in a good position," said Prado. "He was gaining, but slowly."

American shippers Galantas and Dead Red appear overmatched, as does the rest of the local contingent, which includes the reigning Canadian Horse of the Year, Arravale.