Rider Todd Kabel said the dark bay wasn't at his best, but Soaring Free was still good enough, taking Saturday's $107,000 Ontario Jockey Club Stakes at Woodbine. The best, however, could still be yet to come.Even before his fourth consecutive win, the connections of Soaring Free, including conditioner Mark Frostad, had Sept. 14 circled on their calendar.It's the date of the $1-million Atto Mile (Can-I), a race that attracts some of the top turf horses in the world to Woodbine. With the way he's performed in 2003, Soaring Free has established himself as a legitimate contender. Prior to Saturday's seven-furlong run over the Toronto oval's E.P. Taylor Turf Course, Kabel, who leads the Woodbine riding colony with 13 stakes scores on the season, had a few concerns about his charge."In the post parade, he was awful quiet," said Kabel, of the son of Smart Strike, who collected his sixth career win from 10 starts. "Even in the race he was real quiet with me, he wasn't aggressive like he normally is. He just seemed a little flat with me today."Kabel wasted little time in trying to reach the front, dueling with early leader Steady Ruckus for top position, the latter guiding the field through an opening quarter-mile in :22.64.After cutting a half-mile clip in :44.82, Soaring Free, in command by a half-length, extended his lead to two lengths by the quarter-pole. He repelled a late bid by 2001 Atto Mile champion Numerous Times to cross the wire three-quarters of a length ahead in a solid time of 1:21.36 over a turf course rated as "firm.""We've had a lot of fun with him (Soaring Free) this year and we just hope it keeps rolling like this," said Frostad, who recorded his third added-money win on the year. "The ultimate goal is the Atto Mile."
According to the rider whose guided the Ontario-bred in all but one of his 10 lifetime starts, the Sam-Son Farm star is certainly on track for a solid career."I'm just very proud of this horse," said Kabel. "We have high hopes for him. He's special."He paid $2.40, $2.10, $2.10 across the board, combining with Numerous Times ($3.20, $2.60) for a $6.20 exacta. Mister Coop ($4) rounded out a $47 trifecta.(Chart, Equibase)