09/09/2002 12:00AM

Dollase's favorite place to travel


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Wally Dollase already had a fond feeling for Woodbine. He sent out Jewel Princess to win the Breeders' Cup Distaff here in 1996.

That attraction will be even stronger now after Dollase, who is based in Southern California, watched Good Journey become a Grade 1 winner in Sunday's $1 million Atto Mile.

"I love this place," said Dollase. "I've been lucky here."

"And I love Arlington," he added. "I've done well there, too."

The Arlington aside is particularly appropriate since Good Journey, a 6-year-old horse who is undefeated racing over a mile of turf in each of his three starts this year, has thrust himself into the picture for the Breeders' Cup Mile there Oct. 26.

"I think he'll like Arlington," said Dollase.

While Dollase hinted that he might run Good Journey in the interim, with stakes preps available at Keeneland, Santa Anita, and Belmont three weeks before the Breeders' Cup, he also may opt to go straight to the Mile.

"I want to make sure he's dead fit," said the trainer. "There was a big gap between the time I ran him last, on July 4, and now. But he does run good fresh."

Dollase also can boast the rather unusual distinction, considering his California residence, of having trained a Canadian champion.

That honoree was Windsharp, a 5-year-old who spent about eight weeks here in 1996 and made the three Canadian starts which are a prerequisite for Sovereign Award consideration.

Although she did not win here, Windsharp took down turf filly or mare laurels after finishing second in the Jockey Club Cup, fourth in the Canadian International, and fifth in the Breeders' Cup Turf. She had won Grade 1 and Grade 2 stakes in California early in the season.

The Dollase stable also participated in the Breeders' Cup Mile here, with Helmsman finishing sixth.

Helmsman returned in 1997 for the inaugural Atto Mile, finishing second to Geri.

And Dollase was back the next September with Fantastic Fellow, who was considered a leading candidate but never made it to the race.

"I was galloping him the morning of the race," said Dollase, "and he stumbled, and sprained his ankle. It was bad enough that we had to scratch him.

"It got to the point where there was ligament damage; it wasn't a simple sprain. We had to retire him."

A more recent Dollase venture here also turned out to be counterproductive as Sumati, who accompanied Good Journey on his trip and raced in the Aug. 31 Niagara Breeders' Cup Handicap, emerged from his seventh-place finish there with a quarter crack and will be out of action for two or three months.

But Good Journey will go a long way toward easing those disappointments, and Dollase also points out that the Grade 1 success is a huge boost for the horse's career at stud.

Good Journey already qualified on that count in terms of pedigree, as a son of the Northern Dancer stallion, Nureyev.

Foul against runner-up disallowed

Good Journey's success also was sweet vindication for jockey Pat Day, who had piloted Hawksley Hill to a first-place finish here in the 1999 Atto Mile only to be disqualified and placed fourth.

"Days like today are memorable," said Day, who also won Sunday's $291,250 Summer Stakes with New York invader Lismore Knight.

Day also may have had an uncomfortable sense of deja vu when the inquiry sign was posted Sunday.

But this time he had no cause for alarm as the claim of foul lodged by Corey Nakatani, rider of fifth-place finisher Touch of the Blues, was against runner-up Chopinina.

Touch of the Blues was rallying strongly on the inside but had to be checked hard approaching the wire. Both Nakatani and trainer Neil Drysdale, who did not officially claim foul but did speak with the stewards, felt that Chopinina's jockey, Emile Ramsammy, had impeded Touch of the Gold in his rail-skimming run.

The stewards disagreed, and the result stood.

"We really didn't feel there was much of a hole for that horse to go through in the first place," said Nelson Ham, one of the three Ontario Racing Commission stewards on duty.

"[Nakatani] was going into a really tight spot. There's got to be a hole there, not just a little opening."

There certainly were no arguments from the camp of Chopinina, who was just the third filly to run in the Atto Mile and by far the most successful.

Chopinina, a 4-year-old owned by the Knob Hill Stable of Steve Stavro and trained by Alec Fehr, was 2 for 2 over a mile on turf this year but those starts came here in June, under second-level and third-level allowance terms. She also had been nominated to Sunday's Canadian, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares that would have appeared to be a more realistic target.

The public paid little heed to Chopinina, sending her off at 55-1, but Stavro and Fehr had the last laugh.

"I wasn't confident we were going to beat these horses," said Fehr, "but I knew I had the filly right, and she would run her race. She's got a tremendous heart."

Fehr is not certain of his next move with Chopinina and she is not nominated to the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for fillies and mares here Sept. 29.

"I won't run her a mile and a quarter," said Fehr.

"And I don't think we want to face the boys again, either," added the trainer, who will keeping Chopinina at the ready with an eye toward firm turf either here or on the road.

California shippers all did well

Good Journey was one of three California shippers in the Atto Mile and all were prominent, with Nuclear Debate finishing third and the unlucky Touch of the Blues salvaging fifth.

The win was the third for a Californian in the Atto Mile's six runnings, as Riviera was an upsetter for trainer Bobby Frankel in 2000 and Labeeb scored for Drysdale, who also trained the unfortunate Hawksley Hill, in 1998.

Another Atto Mile trend that continued Sunday was the winning percentage of favorites, which remained at zero with Noverre's sixth-place finish.

A more positive trend was the betting handle on the 2002 Atto Mile, which was $2,307,865, up 27 percent from last year and up 49 percent from 2000.

The $5,214,431 total handle on the Woodbine card was up 10 percent from 2001 and 33 percent from 2000.