07/19/2007 11:00PM

Two visitors know their way around


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainers Neil Drysdale and Michael Dickinson are no strangers to success with Woodbine ship-ins over the past decade.

And, with locally based Sky Conqueror and Jambalaya commanding most of the attention, the Drysdale and Dickinson invaders are coming in under the radar for Sunday's Grade 2, $700,000 Northern Dancer over 1 1/2 miles on turf.

Drysdale, whose Woodbine portfolio includes victories in the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile with Becrux in 2006, Touch of the Blues in 2003, and Labeeb in 1998, will be represented by Obrigado in the Northern Dancer.

Dickinson won the Breeders' Cup Mile here with Da Hoss in 1996 and has returned to register stakes upsets with Bowman Mill in the 2003 Sky Classic, Master William in the 2003 Cup and Saucer, and Marsh Side - who has returned for the Northern Dancer - in last year's Valedictory.

Obrigado, a 4-year-old gelding who is owned by Gary Seidler and Peter Vegso, will be looking to give Drysdale his first graded stakes win in a Woodbine turf route in the Northern Dancer.

"We think the turf course there will really suit him, and that's he's a real mile-and-a-half horse," said Drysdale, from his Del Mar headquarters the other morning.

Obrigado, bred in France, won three minor stakes there as a 2-year-old before joining Drysdale last winter.

Obrigado has been a going concern in California, winning 2 stakes and placing in 5 others in 8 starts. The high point was Obrigado's victory in Santa Anita's Grade 2 San Luis Opispbo at 1 1/2 miles on turf Feb. 25.

But a low point followed, as Obrigado finished 13th of 14 in the Grade 1 Dubai Sheema Classic on March 31.

"He didn't handle the turf there at all," said Drysdale. "Plus, he never really got to run very much. He got boxed in at the back, and it was really all over for him."

Obrigado, however, showed no ill effects from his Dubai experience as he resurfaced on June 9 in the Grade 1 Charlie Whittingham Handicap over 1 1/4 miles at Hollywood Park on June 9. After trailing early in the field of eight Obrigado rallied to finish third, beaten 4 1/4 lengths by upset winner After Market. The redoubtable Lava Man finished second.

Drysdale called the race encouraging.

"Those are pretty serious horses," said Drysdale. "He was picking them up at the end - he was almost last at the head of the stretch."

Garrett Gomez, whose only partnerships with Obrigado resulted in the San Luis Obispo victory and a second-place finish behind the talented Showing Up in last fall's Grade 1 Hollywood Derby, has the call here Sunday.

Marsh Side live off a layoff

Marsh Side recorded his first stakes victory when he faced older rivals in the 1 3/4-mile Valedictory here last Dec. 10.

A 4-year-old colt who was bred in Kentucky by his owner, Robert S. Evans, Marsh Side has not raced in the ensuing eight months but has been gearing up recently at Dickinson's Tapeta Farm in Maryland.

Dickinson has demonstrated a winning touch with long-term layoff horses, and Marsh Side is a bona fide sleeper despite facing by far his toughest opposition in the Northern Dancer.

Joy Cooper, who arrived here with Marsh Side on Wednesday, said the colt had been under consideration for the Dominion Day, a 1 1/4-mile main-track race here July 1.

"Michael didn't think he was quite ready," said Cooper. "Then there was the Bowling Green and this race. Those were the alternatives."

Dickinson didn't run Marsh Side in the Bowling Green at Belmont last Sunday.

"He liked the extra week, and we like coming up here," said Cooper.

"He knows what he has. He's very confident in this horse. We're expecting a competitive effort."

Masseuse looking to upset

The faithful will be gathered here Sunday to celebrate the expected victorious return of Arravale, Canada's reigning Horse of the Year, in the Grade 2, $300,000 Dance Smartly.

But, there's a rub.

Masseuse, a Kentucky-bred 5-year-old, checked in from Belmont on Friday morning with designs on disrupting the party.

Trained by Jim Toner, Masseuse found her niche on the turf at Belmont in the spring of 2005 and was beaten just a neck in her stakes debut, the Virginia Oaks at Colonial Downs.

After opening up her 2006 campaign with an allowance score over the Belmont turf course, Masseuse was favored for the Grade 3 Matchmaker at Monmouth Aug. 6. But in the Matchmaker, things went amiss as Edgar Prado, who to that point was 3 for 3 aboard Masseuse, pulled her up shortly after the break.

The Matchmaker was run on Haskell Invitational Day, Monmouth's busiest day of the year.

Toner says Masseuse is the type of horse who benefits from a brisk warm-up and was not afforded enough time that afternoon.

As a result, believes Toner, Masseuse was stiff when they sprung the latch.

"Her front end came out, and her hind end sat in the gate, which made her bobble a little bit in front." Said Toner.

"Prado didn't feel comfortable with her, so he pulled her up."

Masseuse suffered pulled gluteal muscles and did not return to the races until this March 17, when she finished third in the Grade 3 Hillsborough at Tampa Bay Downs.

In her next start, at Aqueduct on April 28, Masseuse recorded her first stakes win in the Grade 3 Beaugay over 1 1/16 miles on yielding turf.

And in her most recent appearance, Masseuse was second in the Grade 2 New York Handicap over 1 1/4 miles on firm turf at Belmont on June 23.

The New York initially had not been in Toner's plans for Masseuse, so Prado, who had returned to her saddle in the Beaugay, had another commitment.

In the Dance Smartly, however, Masseuse and Prado will be reunited.