Cindy's Horse Racing Website Index

Atto Mile Entries

Touch of the Blues wins the 2003 Atto Mile over Soaring Free.

Updated: 9/17/04


On Sunday, a field of eleven will go to post in the $1 million, Grade 1 Atto Mile at Woodbine. The one-turn mile on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course is a major prep for the Breeders' Cup Mile at Lone Star Park in October. On Thursday entries were taken and post positions drawn for the big race on Sunday.

Adam van Koeverden
Invited to the draw as the honorary drawmaster was Adam van Koeverden, Canada's only double medallist at the recent Olympic Games. He won the gold in the men's kayak singles 500-meter event and bronze in the men's 1000-meter kayak singles event. Before assisting racing secretary Steve Lym with the draw for posts, track announcer Dan Loiselle briefly interviewed van Koeverden on the stage. When asked what his thoughts were when he crossed the finish line first, he said, "It was a bit of a surprise. I looked left first to see if I beat Nathan, reigning world champion. I was surprised at how quickly my arm came up after I crossed the finish line. Took way less than a second." Asked what the reaction was when he got home, he said, "I went straight to the Canadian rowing championships and hung out with about 1200 of the biggest canoe and kayak fans in Canada, signed maybe 2000 autographs, got a lot of pictures taken with kids, that sort of thing. It was pretty awesome to just go home and be with them right away like that." Finally, Loiselle asked what his plans are for the immediate future. Van Koeverden said, "Right now I'm taking some time off, going to school, just enjoying being back in Canada. I have world championships this year, and the next 3 years. I'm still not the world champion at any distance so I'm going to shoot for that and be ready for Beijing in 2008."

Mark Frostad
Expected to go off as the favorite is Soaring Free, from the perennial powerhouse combination of owner Sam-Son Farm, trainer Mark Frostad, and jockey Todd Kabel. On July 24th he set a new North American record for 7 furlongs on turf, a blistering 1:19.88 when he won the Ontario Jockey Club Stakes by 2 1/4 lengths. He followed that win up with a win in the Grade 3 Play the King Handicap on August 28. Asked about the outside post 11 that Soaring Free drew, Frostad said, "Actually it's very good news. It's not a problem for us at all. Todd can watch the race unfold, especially if there's a lot of speed. You can take back a little bit when wide. The mile is probably the extent of his distance capabilities, but he's got a very good chance to win it. Todd has been riding super this year. He's a great rider and we're really happy to have him in the irons." Asked about the competition, he said, "Obviously Perfect Soul is a very high quality horse who's won two Grade 1's, Millennium Dragon is a very good horse, Royal Regalia set the track record here. There are a lot of good horses in the field, there are only a couple that really don't fit the bill. Any one of 7 or 8 horses could win the race."

Also in the field is Soaring Free's stablemate, Surging River, winner of the With Approval Stakes in track record time. Surging River drew the 3 hole as a 20-1 outsider on the morning line. Frostad said, "He's a very nice horse, his best race of the year was when he beat Le Cinquieme Essai in the With Approval Stakes. Then we sent him to Saratoga where unfortunately he ran into traffic troubles and got shuffled back early but he's definitely a threat this time."

Roger Attfield
Another who should be at short odds on Sunday is Irish-bred but locally trained Perfect Soul, for trainer Roger Attfield and owner-breeder Charles Fipke. He drew post 8 as the 4-1 third choice. In April he won the Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland. Last time out he finished a disappointing fifth as the 8-5 favorite in the Grade 2 Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes at Woodbine. Attfield said, "I think he's coming into the race as well as he's come into any race this year. I'm really delighted with him. I have no excuses whatsoever. Like I said, the horse is in exceptionally good shape right now. He's just had a lot of unfortunate things. He had a fever in the middle of the summer, he kicked a wall, bruised a foot, frustrating things but nothing serious." Asked about the post position, "I wanted to be somewhere in the middle of the field so we basically are (post eight). Hopefully we'll come out cleanly, get covered up and come with a quarter of a mile run."

The race goes off at 5:10 PM EDT, and will be broadcast live in Canada on Rogers Sportsnet in a special 1 hour telecast from 4:30 to 5:30 PM. It will also be part of NTRA Super Saturday on ABC, a 2-hour show from 4:00 to 6:00PM which also includes the Matron, Ruffian, and Futurity Stakes from Belmont Park and the Arlington-Washington Futurity from Arlington. Daily Racing Form writer Jay Privman will be at Woodbine for the ABC telecast.

Here are the entries with post positions and morning line odds followed by a brief description and photograph of each. Free past performances are available from Daily Racing Form.

1Dumaani StarDanny YuSimon Husbands50-1
2My Lucky StrikeJohn CirilloDavid Clark50-1
3Surging RiverMark FrostadRobert Landry20-1
4Christine's OutlawGeorge WeaverRamon Dominguez12-1
5Slew ValleyReade BakerJim McAleney20-1
6Millennium DragonKiaran McLaughlinRichard Migliore7-2
7MobilMike KeoghPatrick Husbands6-1
8Perfect SoulRoger AttfieldCorey Nakatani4-1
9Royal RegaliaJustin NixonJono Jones8-1
10KathirTodd PletcherSlade Callaghan20-1
11Soaring FreeMark FrostadTodd Kabel2-1

Dumaani Star
Dumaani Star, who contested the 2002 Atto Mile, is back for a second try. Two years ago, Jim McAleney guided the Castle Peak Farm colour-bearer to a 9th place finish at odds of 121-1 in the Atto, 5 1/2 lengths behind winner Good Journey. In three starts this year, the Kentucky-bred has picked up one check, a 4th place effort on the turf June 30 at Woodbine. But the Danny You trainee has been there, done that at the one-mile distance. On November 1, 2003, Jono Jones came up with a shining steer to put Dumaani Star in the winner's circle with a four-wide late rally.

"He's a pretty tough horse," said Yu. "He barely moves when he's in his stall, but when you come to get him, he wants to charge right out of there. If he doesn't know you, he'll pin his ears back and let you know who's boss."

My Lucky Strike
My Lucky Strike was to start in a 6 1/2-furlong turf allowance race at Woodbine on Thursday, but was withdrawn to start in the Grade 1 Atto.

"He's had a foot problem all year, a quarter crack. But right now, his feet are 100% and he's in good shape," said trainer John Cirillo. "I'm hoping he puts up one of his best races (in the Atto). I think he's going to run a big race." Cirillo also plans to add blinkers to his Atto hopeful, who, while winless in six starts this year, has run well in a couple of races, including a second place finish to Soaring Free in June in his seasonal debut.

Surging River
With three wins from his past five starts, including a driving one-length score in the With Approval Stakes on August 8, Surging River is, well, surging, as he prepares for his biggest test to date. The son of Gone West has taken to the turf nine times in his 11-race career, fashioning an enviable record of four wins, three seconds and one third, for $247,329 in career purse earnings.

"We're hoping (Surging River) can come up with another strong effort," said Frostad, of the Ontario-bred, who recently finished seventh after a tough trip in the one-mile Troy Stakes at Saratoga on September 3. "He seems to be getting better and the one mile distance is good for him."

Christine's Outlaw
Trained by George Weaver, Christine's Outlaw won the one-mile, Grade 3 Poker Handicap, July 10 at Belmont Park in 1:32.2, in a thriller over another Atto rival, Millennium Dragon. However, in his last outing, the four-year-old son of Wild Again was a puzzling ninth in the Fourstardave Handicap, August 28 at Saratoga.

"He came out of it well, so I'm kind of falling back on the race he ran in the Poker," explained Weaver. "I feel like the horse is doing well and I want to give him a shot."

Slew Valley
Slew Valley's most recent run at a mile came in May of last year. That game third-place finish to Tap the Admiral, who competed in the 2003 Atto, came in the fog at Belmont. But, if trainer Reade Baker has his way, the seven-time winner will have clear sailing when the real running starts on Sunday.

"He's a battler," said Reade Baker. "The only way he's going to get beat is if he gets outrun. It's not going to be through lack of effort."

Millennium Dragon
He's finished second in four of his past five starts, but Kiaran McLaughlin trainee Millennium Dragon could be ready to slay the competition in Sunday's $1-million Atto Mile. When you factor in nine of the bay's past 10 races have prompted triple-digit Beyer ratings, including a 108 'fig' in the Appleton Handicap to kick off his 2004 campaign, 'Millennium' is a serious threat in what will be his second appearance at Woodbine.

The Darley Stable silk-bearer's most recent effort came in the Grade 3 Poker Handicap on July 10 at Belmont Park. Sent off as the 2-1 favourite, jockey Mike Luzzi had the five-year-old full of run late, missing the top prize by a neck.

"Another jump or two and he wins it," said McLaughlin, of the one-mile Poker. "He tries hard all the time. He ran hard and just missed. The horse that won (fellow Atto entrant Christine's Outlaw) just ran a big race on the day."

After watching Mobil motor to victory in three of his past four races at Woodbine, trainer Mike Keogh certainly must like his chances as the Ontario-bred gears up for another shot at a huge payday. A winner of $1,446,034 lifetime, highest earner in the Atto field, he has 11 victories in 21 starts, four of them on the grass. His last race was a smashing 3 1/2 length score in the Halton Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on the turf in 1:46.97.

"He's a versatile horse and he's shown he can win in different ways and on different surfaces. He's just a great horse to be around," said Keogh.

Perfect Soul
Although he's contested just five of his 19 lifetime starts - all on turf - at the flat mile distance, millionaire Perfect Soul, who is close to calling it a career, has made his mark at the distance. Fashioning a 2-1-1 record, including victories in the Grade 1 Keeneland Turf Mile last year and the Grade 2 Makers Mark Mile in 2004, the son of Sadler's Wells has only one out of the money finish at a mile, finishing ninth in the 2003 Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita.

"He's probably got about two or three races left before he's retired," said Hall of Fame conditioner Roger Attfield, of the lifetime earner of $1,327,764. "Hopefully, things will go right for him."

Royal Regalia
The six-year-old son of 1985 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Cozzene has started only twice this year and just a dozen times in his career, winning five of those outings. However, his two 2004 performances have been very impressive. The grey/roan gelding debuted on Canada Day, July 1 at Woodbine, and proceeded to smash the track record for one mile over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, getting the distance in 1:31.84.

In his second start, the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga, August 28, Royal Regalia led for most of the mile and one-sixteenth affair, before being caught late by Nothing to Lose and Silver Tree, finishing third, but just one and one-half lengths behind the winner.

The lightly-campaigned seven-year-old son of Woodman was an impressive winner of the Barbados Gold Cup in March in Bridgetown, his first start for the Melnyks and trainer Todd Pletcher after being purchased privately in January. He heads into the Atto off a runner-up finish, a nose behind Gulch Approval in the Grade 3 Oceanport Handicap on August 8 at Monmouth, his only loss in four starts this year.

"He was a bit unlucky in that one," recalled Pletcher, New York's leading trainer last year, who'll saddle his first Atto entrant in Kathir. "He didn't get out until very late but closed with a big rush. Had he had an opportunity 10 yards sooner, he'd have probably gotten there."

Soaring Free
Soaring Free has four main track wins, eight turf triumphs, 12 career wins from 20 starts and 16 Beyer figures of 90 or higher. When you saddle a horse like Soaring Free, it's hard to curb your enthusiasm. Soaring Free finished a hard-fought second to Touch of the Blues in last year's Atto, just a half-length back for top honours. Todd Kabel, Woodbine's leading rider, will once again get the call.

"He's pretty good right now. It will take a helluva horse to beat him (in the Atto Mile)," said Frostad, seeking his second Atto crown, after winning the 1999 edition with Quiet Resolve. "You're confident in the horse and you know you?ve done what you can with him and hopefully he's as fit as can be. Now it's up to the jockey and what happens with the racing gods."

Atto Mile info online:

From Woodbine press releases.
All photos ©2004 Cindy Pierson Dulay.

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