Soaring Free Favored to Fly in Atto Mile

(from Woodbine report)
Sam-Son Farm's Soaring Free has been installed as the 2-1 morning line favorite in a field of 11 for Sunday's $1 million Atto Mile (Can-I) at Woodbine.

The one-mile classic over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course will go off at 5:08 p.m. ET The Atto Mile will air in the United States on ABC-TV from 4 to 6 p.m., which will also feature the Matron and Ruffian Stakes (both gr. I) from Belmont Park in New York.

Soaring Free, who drew post position 11 and is trained by Mark Frostad, will be trying to improve slightly on his performance in last year's Atto, when he finished a game second, just a half-length behind winner Touch Of The Blues after starting from the same outside post. Named Canada's top sprinter in 2003, he'll also attempt to become the first post-time favorite to win the race in seven runnings. The best previous finish by a favorite was by Affirmed Success, who was second in 2001.

The 5-year-old homebred gelded son of Smart Strike enters the Atto on a four-race win streak. His latest victory came in the seven-furlong Play The King Handicap (Can-III) Aug. 28. Prior to that, he'd set a North American record for the same distance in the July 24 Ontario Jockey Club Stakes, an incredible 1:19.38.

Jockey Todd Kabel, who has been aboard the $1,221,784 career earner in all but four of his 20 starts and in 11 of his 12 wins, will be seeking his first Atto Mile score. Sam-Son and Frostad are gunning for a second triumph after being awarded the 1999 renewal with Quiet Resolve when the winner Hawksley Hill was disqualified for interference in the stretch.

"(Post 11) is very good news. No problem for us at all," said Frostad. "We can watch the race unfold. If there's a lot of speed, when you're on the inside you're pretty much committed to go. But when you're on the outside, you can take back a little bit. There are a number of horses in there with speed. We'll just see whether they choose to use it early.

"He knows what he's supposed to do now and I think he enjoys it. He ran a huge race last year. He was very unlucky to get beaten, I thought."

Darley Stable's Millennium Dragon, a winner once in six starts this year for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, is the second choice in the morning line. He heads into the race off a second-place finish to another Atto rival, Christine's Outlaw, in the one mile Poker Handicap (gr. IIIT) July 10 at Belmont.

The five-year-old British-bred son of former European champion miler Mark of Esteem was giving seven pounds to the winner that day. To be ridden by Richard Migliore, Millennium Dragon has been ultra-consistent this year, with four second-place finishes as well, including the Dixie (gr. IIT) at Pimlico May 15 to course record-setter Mr. O'Brien.

Another local star gearing up for a big performance is Charles Fipke's Perfect Soul, who finished a flying third in last year's Atto, his first career attempt at the flat mile distance. Last season, the son of Sadler's Wells won three of eight starts, including the Shadwell Turf Mile (gr. IT) on his way to earning a Sovereign Award as Canada's top turf male.

The 6-year-old Irish-bred, trained by Roger Attfield, has had a limited 2004 campaign due to a bruised foot and a cough. After opening with a course record-setting (1:33.54) victory in the Makers Mark Mile (gr. IIT) at Keeneland in April, the bay hasn't returned to the winner's circle in three cracks since. In his latest outing, he was fifth, as the favorite, to Shoal Water in the July 25 Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes (Can-II) over 1 3/8 miles at Woodbine.

With $1,327,764 in career earnings, Perfect Soul, the third choice in the morning line, will be handled by Corey Nakatani, who rode him once before in a close fifth place finish in last year's Arlington Million (gr. IT) in Chicago.

Another strong local entrant is Gus Schickedanz's Mobil, the field's leading money winner with $1,446,034 in the bank over three incredibly productive seasons. Trained by Mike Keogh, the 4-year-old homebred son of Langfuhr  lived in the shadows of his illustrious Triple Crown-winning stablemate Wando last year, but still managed to win five of nine starts, all stakes.

This year, the robust bay has continued his winning ways, taking three of six outings, including the Sept. 5 Halton Stakes in his latest. Patrick Husbands rides him.

$1 Million (Canadian) Atto Mile (Can-I), 3 & up (turf)
1/Dumaani Star/Castle Peak Farm Ltd./Danny Yu/Simon Husbands
2/My Lucky Strike/Billy Wine and Joe Ferraro/John Cirillo/David Clark
3/Surging River/Sam-Son Farm/Mark Frostad/Robert Landry
4/Christine's Outlaw/R.C. Hill Stable/George Weaver/Ramon Dominguez
5/Slew Valley/Rich Meadow Farm & Alan Burkhard/Reade Baker/Jim McAleney
6/Millennium Dragon/Darley Stable/Kiaran McLaughlin/Richard Migliore
7/Mobil/Gus Schickedanz/Mike Keogh/Patrick Husbands
8/Perfect Soul/Charles Fipke/Roger Attfield/Corey Nakatani
9/Royal Regalia/Stronach Stables/Justin Nixon/Jono Jones
10/Kathir/Eugene & Laura Melnyk/Todd Pletcher/Slade Callaghan
11/Soaring Free/Sam-Son Farm/Mark Frostad/Todd Kabel