Gainsborough Farm, jockey Kent Desormeaux and trainer Neil Drysdale teamed up once again to win a thrilling edition of the $1 million Atto Mile (Can-I) Sunday at Woodbine, this time with Touch of the Blues.
In 1998, they captured the classic, then worth $750,000, with 6-year-old Labeeb, who beat Jim and Tonic by a head.
"I've very happy for (owner) Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum," Drysdale said. "(Touch of the Blues') schedule is the same as last year, he'll go in the Shadwell Mile Stakes (Oct. 4 at Keeneland) next and then we'll see. Maybe we'll go in the Breeders' Cup (Oct. 25 at Santa Anita)."
Touch of the Blues made a bold move late to get past Soaring Free in deep stretch and went on to a half-length win.
The 6-year-old French-bred horse stormed five-wide down the lane to put away the Soaring Free, ridden by Todd Kabel, and the late-running Perfect Soul, who was 1 3/4 lengths farther back.
Wando, the Canadian Triple Crown winner who was bidding to become the first 3-year-old winner of the Atto Mile, finished fourth as the 3-1 favorite in the 11-horse field. The final time was 1:33 1/5 on a firm turf course, three-fifths of a second off the track mark.
Touch of the Blues broke ninth and continued to race far back at the rail for Desormeaux before moving up on the turn and switching away from the rail. He exploded while five wide down the lane as he and Soaring Free drew away. Perfect Soul, ridden by Jose Santos, was last down the backstretch and still sixth at the top of the stretch and turned in a big effort while closing on a strong pace. He was a neck ahead of Wando.
Wando, who forced the pace behind Wake At Noon and Chopinina, and jockey Patrick Husbands gave the crowd a thrill when he took the lead on the turn. But while determined, he lacked much closing punch when challenged by Soaring Free in the stretch.
Touch of the Blues broke an eight-race losing streak with a trackrecord of 1:32 1/5 in the one-mile Wickerr at Del Mar, his last start on Aug. 2. He collected his first grade or group I win in his 33rd start. His eighth victory pushed his career earnings to more than $1.2 million.
"This horse was unbelievable today," said Desormeaux. "He was always at the end of my fingertips ready to explode. Going around the racetrack, he was very quiet, very comfortable, in a comfortable stride. I wasn't concerned at all until it was time to take the fight to him.
"When we straightened away and I was able to clear, give him a clear path at the leaders, I didn't get to him (Soaring Free) as quick as I thought I would. Fortunately, this guy stuck to his task and just grinded him out, inching and inching and inching to him. Love this racetrack. It's got a long stretch and class can prevail."
The son of Cadeaux Genereux was a traffic-plagued fifth in last year's Atto Mile, beaten by two lengths by Good Journey.
It was Touch of the Blue's third win at the one-mile distance in 21 career tries.
The 5-1 fourth choice, Touch of the Blues paid $12.90, $6.30 and $3.90. Soaring Free returned $6.50 and $4.40. Perfect Soul's show price was $3.60. The $2 exacta was worth $8.50.
Chopinina was fifth, followed by Moonshine Hall, Freefourinternet, Sarafan, Numerous Times, Tap the Admiral and Wake At Noon.