Crown Winner Wando Faces Tough Atto Field

Crown Winner Wando Faces Tough Atto Field
Photo: AP/Aaron Harris
Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando set to contest Sunday's Atto Mile at Woodbine.
(from Woodbine report)
Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando and a pair of Neil Drysdale-trained veteran turf specialists lead a powerful field of 11 entered for Sunday's $1 million Atto Mile (Can-I) at Woodbine.

The one-mile classic, in which the winner will receive $600,000, will be contested over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course. Post time is scheduled for 5:08 p.m. EDT.

The seventh edition of the 'Mile' (the the fifth sponsored by Atto Insurance) is an extremely competitive one, headed by Wando, Sarafan, Touch of the Blues, Soaring Free and Perfect Soul.

Gus Schickedanz's Wando, the 5-2 morning line favorite, will try to become the first 3-year-old to win the Atto. The homebred son of Langfuhr has been invincible locally since April 19, when he began a five-race win streak. The Mike Keogh-trained colt romped by nine lengths in the historic Queen's Plate, the start of his Triple Crown quest which culminated with a victory in the Breeders' Stakes Aug. 9. The chestnut became only the seventh winner of the 'Crown' since 1959 and the first since Peteski in 1993. He has banked an incredible $1.9 million so far this year.

Wando competed a year ago on the undercard of Atto Mile day, finishing second to Lismore Knight in the Summer Stakes. This time he's facing not only some tough local older rivals but also some serious imports. Wando's jockey Patrick Husbands, who won the 2001 Atto aboard Numerous Times, will try to become the first two-time winner of the race.

Hall of Fame trainer Drysdale is bringing two 6-year-olds from California, Sarafan (7-2) and Touch of the Blues (4-1), both of whom will receive plenty of support. Drysdale won the Atto in 1998 with Labeeb, then took the 1999 edition with Hawksley Hill, only to be disqualified.

Gary Tanaka's Sarafan is the field's leading money winner with almost $2.3 million, most of which was earned last season in a banner international campaign. The gelded son of Lear Fan (who also sired 1998 winner Labeeb) won two stakes in the United States in 2002, the Explosive Bid (gr. IIT) at Fairgrounds and the Eddie Read (gr. IT) at Del Mar. But he also came close in a host of others, including a nose loss to Falbrav in the Japan Cup (Jpn-I) and a head defeat at the hands of Beat Hollow in the Arlington Million (gr. IT). The bay has won once in two starts this year and will be ridden by Corey Nakatani.

Gainsborough Farm's homebred Touch of the Blues comes into the Atto off a nose victory in the one-mile Wickerr Handicap at Del Mar, Aug. 2, timed in a blistering 1:32.1. The French-bred son of Cadeaux Genereux also competed in last year's Atto, finishing fifth behind Good Journey in a troubled trip which saw his jockey claim foul against second-place finisher Chopinina, a claim which was disallowed by the stewards. Kent Desormeaux, who is also looking for a second Atto victory after steering Labeeb to the winner's circle in 1998, will ride him.

Sam-Son Farm's Soaring Free (5-1) puts his 2003 unbeaten string on the line in the Atto. Trained by Mark Frostad, the 4-year-old gelded son of Sam-Son's stakes-winning Smart Strike is a perfect five-for-five at Woodbine this year, including a score in the recent seven furlong Play the King Handicap Aug. 16.

Soaring Free will be ridden, as usual, by Todd Kabel, Woodbine's leading stakes-winning rider this year, now with 23 added-money victories, He'll be trying to give Sam-Son and Frostad a second Atto Mile win, after the stable's Quiet Resolve was awarded the 1999 renewal on Hawksley Hill's disqualification.

Charles Fipke's Irish homebred Perfect Soul (6-1), a 5-year-old son of Sadler's Wells, will be trying the mile distance for the first time in his life. The Roger Attfield trainee comes into the Atto from a close fifth-place finish to disqualified winner Storming Home and Sulamani in the Arlington Million Aug. 16. Winner of the King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap June 15 at Woodbine, Perfect Soul will be ridden for the first time by Jose Santos, the regular pilot of this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness (both gr. I) winner Funny Cide.

Schickedanz's Wake At Noon (30-1), Canada's Horse of the Year in 2002, is a career earner of over $1.5 million, but has been unplaced in two turf outings, including a 13th place finish in the 2001 Atto. Last year, the son of Cure the Blues won four stakes on his way to additional Sovereign Awards as the country's top Sprinter and top Older Male. Trained by Abraham Katryan, the 6-year-old chestnut, winner of the Vigil, Izvestia and Seagram Cup Stakes this season, will be ridden by Emile Ramsammy.

The Committee Stable's Numerous Times (30-1) is looking to become the first horse to win the Atto Mile twice. The son of Numerous scored a thrilling victory in 2001 in the closest three-horse finish of the race, when he wound up a nose in front of Affirmed Success, with Quiet Resolve just another nose behind, in the stakes record time of 1:32.79. The Sid Attard-trained 6-year-old, winless in six starts since however, will be ridden for the first time by Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, taking over from Patrick Husbands, who has been aboard Numerous Times in all 12 of his career starts.

Stevens only recently returned to riding after being injured in the Arlington Million, when he fell off Storming Home, the disqualified winner, as he ducked out near the wire.

Knob Hill Stable's Chopinina (15-1) will try to become the first filly or mare to win the Atto. Last year, the daughter of Lear Fan finished second to Good Journey as a 55-1 longshot, a performance which earned her a Sovereign Award as Canada's top filly or mare turfer. This year, the 5-year-old gray, trained by Alec Fehr, enters the Atto off her first stakes win, the six-furlong Royal North, Aug. 2. She'll be ridden for the first time by Richard Dos Ramos, who has teamed with Knob Hill in the past for some memorable upsets, including the 1999 Canadian International with 18-1 Thornfield and the 1992 Molson Export Million with 32-1 longshot Benburb.

Eugene and Laura Melnyk's Moonshine Hall (30-1), the only 3-year-old entered besides Wando, won the one-mile Charlie Barley Stakes at Woodbine June 22 and is unbeaten in three career outings at the one mile distance. Trained by Tony Reinstedler, the son of 1997 Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner Spinning World will have the services of another Hall of Fame jockey, Pat Day, who won last year's Atto on Good Journey.

Competing the field are Pont Street Stable's Tap The Admiral (20-1) and Equirace Stable's Freefourinternet (30-1).

Tap the Admiral won the July 5 Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) at one mile at Churchill Downs, the same race Good Journey took last year, prior to his Atto triumph. Trained by Del Carroll II, the 5-year-old son of Pleasant Tap will be handled by Mike Luzzi.

Five-year-old Freefourinternet, trained by Joan Scott, makes his first appearance since finishing second to Tap the Admiral in the Firecracker. The son of 1994 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Tabasco Cat will be ridden by Robby Albarado.

$1 million Atto Mile (Can-I), 3 & up, 1 mile on turf
PP/Horse/Trainer/Jockey
1/Sarafan/Neil Drysdale/Corey Nakatani
2/Freefourinternet/Joan Scott/Robby Albarado
3/Touch of the Blues/Neil Drysdale/Kent Desormeaux
4/Perfect Soul/Roger Attfield/Jose Santos
5/Wando/Michael Keogh/Patrick Husbands
6/Numerous Times/Sid Attard/Gary Stevens
7/Moonshine Hall/Tony Reinstedler/Pat Day
8/Chopinina/Alec Fehr/Richard Dos Ramos
9/Wake At Noon/Abraham Katryan/Emile Ramsammy
10/Tap the Admiral/Del Carroll II/Mike Luzzi
11/Soaring Free/Mark Frostad/Todd Kabel

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