Atto Mile Report: Day's Journey

Published in the Sept. 14 issue of The Blood-Horse
This time, Pat Day got to keep his Atto Mile (Can-IT) trophy. It was only three years ago that Day's accidental whipping of Jim and Tonic disqualified away his victory on Hawksley Hill, but on Sept. 8 at Woodbine, it was smooth sailing for jockey and his aptly named mount Good Journey.

There was a brief scare for Day following the race when the inquiry sign went up. However, when he found out it concerned the runner-up, Canadian filly Chopinina, he tipped his helmet to the sky in relief. "(Hawksley Hill) crossed my mind," said Day. "I started re-running the race rapidly in my mind and I'm thinking, 'goodness, I never got close to anybody.' "

Day said his horse ducked slightly and jumped onto his wrong lead in deep stretch when he felt the one and only tap of the whip, but the jockey was confident he was scot-free this time.

Indeed, Day gave the beautifully bred Good Journey a perfect trip around the parched E.P. Taylor turf course and wore down the front-running Chopinina in the final furlong for a length score in the sixth running of the race.

"He couldn't have been trained any better," said Day. "He came into the race on top of his game. He just cruised into the stretch, and I felt I had the filly on the lead at any time."

The leader was Chopinina, a 55-1 shot who had never won a stakes race in nine career starts for Steve Stavro's Knob Hill Farms. She had scampered to a three-length lead early in the mile race and almost lasted for the upset under jockey Emile Ramsammy.

"My filly ran a monster race today," said Ramsammy. "She had things all her own way and just got beat by a nice horse."

The performance by the daughter of Lear Fan was almost what trainer Alec Fehr had predicted: the conditioner said his filly was ready to run the race of her career.

Gritty Nuclear Debate, a 7-year-old gelding who had never raced beyond 6 1/2 furlongs, rallied hard but missed catching Chopinina for second by a neck. It was another neck back to Gainsborough Farm's Moon Solitaire and a half-length farther to the same owner's Touch of the Blues.

The latter was full of run on the rail in deep stretch but had to check hard nearing the wire when Chopinina drifted toward the rail, closing the narrow opening.

"My trip was brutal, just brutal," said Corey Nakatani, who rode the Neil Drysdale trainee. "One horse after another got in the way. Ramsammy rode too good; it cost me the race."

Nakatani claimed foul on Ramsammy while Drysdale (who also trained Hawksley Hill) called the stewards.

In minutes, the stewards ruled there was no foul.

"We didn't feel there was much of a hole for that horse in the first place," said Nelson Ham, an Ontario Racing Commission steward.

The Mile's slight favorite, Godolphin's group I winner Noverre, came to Woodbine with a lofty reputation, much bigger than his pint-sized physique. The half-brother to Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner Arazi hadn't won since the Sussex Stakes (Eng-I) in August 2001, but was second in three consecutive group Is in 2002, once to superstar Rock of Gibraltar.

But for the third time in as many trips to North America, Noverre, who broke from post 13, was never a factor under Frankie Dettori and finished sixth.

Third choice Del Mar Show, who had won two consecutive graded stakes races for trainer Bill Mott but was saddled in the Atto Mile by Leana Willaford, got worked up in the stifling 90-degree heat and trailed home in 10th position under Jerry Bailey in the 13-horse field.

Good Journey's running time of 1:33.27 just missed the course record of 1:32.79 set by Numerous Times in last year's Atto Mile.

The 6-year-old horse is co-owned and trained by Wally Dollase, whose partners in the horse are breeder Flaxman Holdings, Mike Jarvis, and Gary Margolis.

It was the fourth consecutive win for Good Journey, whose tender feet have kept his afternoon appearances to a minimum. The son of Nureyev began his career in France in 1999 and was placed twice in three starts.

After moving to Dollase's California stable in the fall of 2000, Good Journey broke his maiden in his second North American start, going a mile on the Hollywood Park turf.

The strapping chestnut finished up 2001 with a win in the Citation Handicap (gr. IIT) at Hollywood before getting a seven-month break.

Dollase sent Good Journey on the road in 2002 in search of more forgiving turf courses than the Southern California ovals. The horse returned to action in top form, winning an optional claiming race at Churchill Downs on June 15 and the Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) at the same track three weeks later.

"He's a push-button horse," said Dollase. "I've had some problems with him--feet problems and he popped a splint once. Other than that he's been a jewel to train. He has a great mind; he's so willing."

Dollase had been eyeing the Atto Mile for Good Journey for several months because of its rich stakes status.

"It's very important for his pedigree. I think he'll make a nice stallion down the road. I couldn't be happier."

With the victory now firmly on Good Journey's résumé, Dollase said he's looking forward to picking out the horse's next race and the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) at Arlington International on Oct. 26 is a possible target.

"I don't know if he can win the Breeders' Cup, with Rock of Gibraltar and other goodies in there," said Dollase. "They don't go much faster than 1:33 and one, though, and I think he'll like Arlington."

Good Journey, a half-brother to stakes winners Aldebaran and Tomisue's Indy, is out of the champion English filly Chimes of Freedom, whose half-sister Imperfect Circle produced Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. I) winner Spinning World, also a son of Nureyev.

Summer Day

Day got his Atto Mile day off to a rousing start with a nifty ride on Barry Simon and J.J. Pletcher's Lismore Knight in the $291,250 Summer Stakes (Can-II). Day saved ground on the 2-year-old son of Woodman--Lismore Lady, split rivals in mid-stretch, and won a head bob over the previously undefeated Wando at the end of the mile turf race.

Lismore Knight, trained by Todd Pletcher, won his career debut by nine lengths on the Belmont turf in July and was returning to the grass after a fifth-place finish in the Continental Mile Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Another American shipper took the day's third stakes race, the Canadian Handicap (Can-II), at about 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Calista and jockey Corey Nakatani held off the furious rally of Stronach Stable's Diadella to win the $284,250 race by inches. Calista, a 4-year-old Caerleon filly trained by Christophe Clement, had won the Spicy Living Sweepstakes at Rockingham Park on Aug. 4 in her previous start.

(Chart, Equibase)