Leroidesanimaux puts his seven-race winning streak on the line as the 9-5 morning line favorite against eight opponents in Sunday's $1 million Atto Mile (Can-I) at Woodbine.
The Atto, to be contested over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, will be at 5:06 p.m. ET. This year's Atto, which offers $600,000 to the winner, is the seventh under the sponsorship of Atto Insurance.
TNT Stud's Leroidesanimaux drew the inside post for five-time Eclipse Award winner Bobby Frankel, who earlier this year trained Wild Desert to a win in Woodbine's Queen's Plate. Leroidesanimaux hasn't lost since Jan. 31, 2004.
The 5-year-old Brazilian-bred son of Candy Stripes, who will carry top weight of 124 pounds, gives up to seven pounds to his rivals. Leroidesanimaux, who is the top-ranked turf miler in the world, comes into the race off a course record-setting performance in the Fourstardave Stakes (gr. IIT) at Saratoga, Aug. 27, when he clocked 1:39.92 for 1 1/16 miles.
"It was an easy race for him because he made an easy lead. He wasn't challenged at all," said Frankel. While it wasn't really the plan to lay him up from March until August of this year, Frankel said, "He had a little problem so we decided to get him ready for the end of the year. We gave him some extra time."
To be ridden by John Velazquez, who teamed with Frankel to win the 2000 Atto with longshot Riviera, Leroidesanimaux (pronounced Le-wrah-days-annie-moe), is the only grade I winner in the field. He won the Frank Kilroe Handicap (gr. IT) March 5 at Santa Anita and the Citation Handicap (gr. IT) last November 27 at Hollywood Park. The lightly-raced chestnut boasts eight wins from only 11 career starts and earnings of $744,337.
Trainer Neil Drysdale will send out Gainsborough Farm's King of Happiness, the 3-1 second choice, with Patrick Valenzuela, who won the Queen's Plate earlier this year aboard Wild Desert, named to ride. Drysdale and Gainsborough have won the Atto twice, with Labeeb in 1998 and Touch of the Blues in 2003.
King of Happiness, a 6-year-old son of 1997 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner Spinning World, hasn't raced since July 3, when he finished second to Whilly in the American Invitational (gr. IIT) at Hollywood Park. He won his opener this year, the Inglewood Handicap (gr. IIIT) April 30 at Hollywood Park before being nipped by Castledale in the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) May 30.
Stronach Stables' Royal Regalia, who finished a close third to Soaring Free and Perfect Soul in last year's Atto, is the 6-1 third choice. To be ridden by Jono Jones, the Justin Nixon-trained hopeful has raced only once this year, winning an allowance contest over 1 1/16 miles on the turf July 28 at Woodbine. The 7-year-old gelded son of 1985 Breeders' Cup Mile winner Cozzene
is a winner in seven of just 15 career starts.
"Obviously, there are very nice horses (in the field)," said Nixon. "(Leroidesanimaux) looks like a monster. And King of Happiness, they must think a lot of him to fly him from California. To be realistic, it's an awfully tough Atto Mile field. They are the obvious horses to beat. We've drawn outside (of them) so maybe we can run them down."
The field's leading money winner is Gus Schickedanz's homebred Mobil, Canada's top older male horse last year, listed at 15-1. A career earner of $1,751,384, the 5-year-old son of Langfuhr was fifth in last year's Atto and has won 11 stakes overall, the latest being the Halton on Sept. 4 at 1 1/8 miles over the Woodbine turf. Trained by Mike Keogh, Mobil will be ridden by Patrick Husbands, who won the 2001 Atto aboard Numerous Times.
British raider Vanderlin, owned by the Hitchins family and trained by Andrew Balding, comes into the Atto off a scintillating score in the seven furlong Play the King Stakes (Can-II) in his North American debut at Woodbine, Aug. 27, when he collared Atto rival Le Cinquieme Essai at the wire. The British-bred 6-year-old son of Halling is the field's busiest campaigner, with 41 career starts and six wins. Listed at 8-1, the chestnut gelding will be handled by Martin Dwyer.
The well-traveled A to the Z, trained and co-owned by Paula Capestro, is also pegged at 8-1. Last November, the chestnut son of Benchmark finished second, just a half-length behind Leroidesanimaux, in the Citation at Hollywood Park. Todd Kabel, who won the Atto last year aboard Soaring Free, Canada's reigning Horse of the Year, in the stakes record time of 1:32.72, has been named to ride the 5-year-old gelding.
In addition to Royal Regalia and Mobil, the other Canadian hopefuls are Le Cinquieme Essai, Awesome Action and Sophia's Prince.$1 million Atto Mile (Can-I), 3 & up
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, ML Odds
1. Leroidesanimaux (BRZ), John R. Velazquez, 124, 9/5
2. King of Happiness (KY), Patrick A. Valenzuela, 119, 3/1
3. Vanderlin (GB), Martin Dwyer, 121, 8/1
4. A to the Z (CA), Todd Kabel, 121, 8/1
5. Royal Regalia (KY), Jono C. Jones, 117, 6/1
6. Awesome Action (ON), Robert C. Landry, 117, 20/1
7. Sophia's Prince (ON), Simon P. Husbands, 117, 20/1
8. Le Cinquieme Essai (ON), Steven Ronald Bahen, 119, 10/1
9. Mobil (ON), Patrick Husbands, 117, 15/1