09/15/2005 11:00PM

Atto Mile goes through 'Leroi'


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Leroidesanimaux, widely regarded to be the continent's leading turf miler, will take center stage Sunday at Woodbine in the Grade 1, $1 million .

The ninth running of the Atto heads a tremendous 11-race card, which includes two other grass stakes, the Grade 2 Summer and the Grade 2 Canadian.

Leroidesanimaux, a Brazilian import trained by Bobby Frankel, has won his last seven outings while racing in Southern California and New York and has earned an average Beyer Speed Figure of 107. He took the Grade 1 Citation Handicap last November and the Grade 1 Frank Kilroe Handicap following a layoff in March.

Leroidesanimaux was off for nearly six months before his last start, the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap at Saratoga Aug. 27. He shook loose on the lead, set a slow pace, and won comfortably in a course record time of 1:39.92 for 1 1/16 miles.

"It was an easy race for him, because he made an easy lead," said Frankel, who won the 2000 Atto with 10-1 shot Riviera.

Leroidesanimaux has tactical speed, and it will be interesting to see what jockey John Velazquez does with him after they break from post 1. To avoid getting boxed in, he will likely be forwardly placed over a course that will have some give to it after receiving heavy rainfall Friday.

Trainer Neil Drysdale has won the Atto twice, including in 1998 with Labeeb, who was returning from a 13-week layoff. Sunday, he will saddle Grade 3 winner King of Happiness, who has been absent since running second in the Grade 2 American Invitational Handicap July 3 at Hollywood.

"We've been pointing him to the [Atto] since the beginning of the summer," said Drysdale.

Royal Regalia, trained by Justin Nixon for Stronach Stable, holds the one-mile course record here, 1:31.84. Beaten just three-quarters of a length by Soaring Free when third in the 2004 Atto, Royal Regalia has started just once this year, scoring a front-running victory in a July 28 allowance. Nixon said that lack of racing action was by design.

"He broke the track record last year off about a seven-month layoff and likes to be a little fresher," Nixon said. "We got one prep into him, and it was a very good prep. He's a front-running horse, so we shouldn't be too far off if we're not on the lead."

A to the Z had traffic problems when finishing second to Leroidesanimaux in the Citation at Hollywood, perhaps the best effort of his career. He was favored last time in a stakes at Santa Rosa in California, but he stumbled coming out of the gate, causing jockey Omar Figueroa to lose his balance and jump off.

"My heart sunk, because it was his prep for this race," said trainer Paula Capestro. "He got to the front and ran a beautiful race all the way around on the lead and won by five. He pulled himself up after and waited for the pony. The pony took him off the track, so he thought he won."

Vanderlin and Le Cinquieme Essai were first and second, a head apart, in the seven-furlong Play the King Handicap, the major local prep for the Atto.

Vanderlin is trained by Andrew Balding, who won the 2003 Canadian International with Phoenix Reach. Vanderlin had 5 wins in 40 starts in his native England before the Grade 2 Play the King, which was his first start with Lasix.

"He's in great form," said Leanne Masterton, an assistant to Balding.

Le Cinquieme Essai, Canada's champion 3-year-old in 2002, has evolved into a serious grass specialist, winning 4 of his 6 turf attempts at a mile.

"He's right on the money, mentally and physically," said trainer Paul Nielsen. "It's a step up in class, but I think he'll run well. He's as good as he's ever been."

Sophia's Prince established the 6 1/2-furlong record on Woodbine's main track, 1:14.56, when he won his last outing in the Shepperton Stakes.

Sophia's Prince has spotty turf form, but trainer John LeBlanc Jr. said he believes Sophia's Prince had legitimate excuses in his two subpar efforts on the grass.

"I think he's just as good on the turf as he is on the dirt," he said.

* Superfecta wagering will be offered on the Atto and the Canadian.