09/11/2003 11:00PM

Drysdale, an Atto Mile regular, sends two


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - California-based trainer Neil Drysdale certainly is no stranger to the Atto Mile, as he has been represented in the past six editions of the Grade 1 turf race.

But Drysdale, who won the Atto Mile with Labeeb in 1998 and watched Hawksley Hill finish first only to be disqualified and placed fourth the following season, will be adding a wrinkle to his visit this year, running both Touch of the Blues and Sarafan here Sunday.

"The race just comes at a very good time," Drysdale said. "And, Woodbine has a very good turf course."

The timing issue is particularly pertinent to the Breeders' Cup, which will be run Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.

Labeeb followed up his win here with a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile, and Hawksley Hill finished a close fifth in the BC Mile after his Atto appearance.

Irish Prize, a Drysdale trainee who finished fourth in the 2001 Atto Mile, ran fourth in the BC Mile in his next start.

Touch of the Blues, an unlucky fifth in this race last year, ended up 10th in the BC Mile following a second-place finish in Keeneland's Shadwell Turf Mile.

Whereas Touch of the Blues was making his seventh start of the season in last year's Atto Mile, he will be racing for just the fourth time this year and for the second time since a summer vacation.

"This spring, we decided we were going to do the same thing" as last year, said Drysdale, who is hoping Touch of the Blues will proceed to the Oct. 4 Shadwell Turf Mile and then on to the Breeders' Cup.

Touch of the Blues has done the majority of his running at the mile distance, and Drysdale is well aware that the horse's closing style can lead to trouble.

"He'll need a fast pace and a clean trip," Drysdale said.

Sarafan, however, has competed over a variety of distances in his 32 career starts, all on the turf.

The Atto Mile could be the beginning of a journey that Drysdale hopes will lead to return trips to November's 1 1/2-mile Japan Cup and December's 1 1/4-mile Hong Kong Cup.

Sarafan finished second, beaten a nose, in last year's Japan Cup and fourth, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the Hong Kong Cup.

"I deliberately started him off late this year," said Drysdale, who did not send out Sarafan until May 21, when he finished third in a classified allowance over 1 1/8 miles at Hollywood Park.

"He popped a splint there, and I got a little bit behind," Drysdale said. "I had to give him a rest."

Sarafan returned Aug. 22 at Del Mar and won the 1 1/16-mile Brubaker Handicap, which Drysdale had designated as Sarafan's Atto Mile prep. After the Atto Mile, Sarafan is slated to start at Santa Anita, either in the Sept. 28 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial at 1 1/4 miles or in the Oct. 5 Oak Tree Mile.

Sarafan then could run in either the Breeders' Cup Mile or the Breeders' Cup Turf, at 1 1/2 miles, as a prelude to the Japan Cup, which is his primary goal.

"He's very versatile," said Drysdale. The trainer noted that Sarafan prepped for last year's Japan Cup in the 6 1/2-furlong Morvich Handicap at Santa Anita and came within a half-length of winning that race, which came four weeks after his second-place finish in the Clement L. Hirsch.

Perfect Soul tries to shorten up

Another Atto Mile contestant who will be looking to state his case for the BC Mile is Perfect Soul, the 5-year-old horse who is coming off a close fifth-place finish in the Arlington Million.

Perfect Soul was successful in his debut over seven furlongs on turf here last June. But in 11 subsequent starts, all on the grass, he has not raced at a distance shorter than 1 1/8 miles.

"When we first started running him and he won going seven furlongs, a lot of people thought that's probably too short for this kind of horse," trainer Roger Attfield said.

But Attfield had a slightly different perspective because he had trained Dimontina, a half-sister to Perfect Soul, who was at her best sprinting.

"Looking at his pedigree, I just thought that he would maybe be a middle-distance type horse," said Attfield. "But I started stretching him out, and he was winning anyway.

"I think he's pretty versatile. This week, anyway, I'm hoping that he is a superior middle-distance horse. Obviously he's capable of running farther, depending on what competition he's in and how the races go."

Perfect Soul launched his current campaign with a 1 1/8-mile allowance win at Keeneland and followed up with a strong second-place finish over the same distance in Pimlico's Dixie.

After becoming a stakes winner here in the 1 1/8-mile King Edward, Perfect Soul finished second to Strut the Stage in the 1 3/8-mile Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes and then went on to the 1 1/4-mile Arlington Million, where he was beaten three-quarters of a length after moving to the lead in midstretch.

"The plan had always been to run in the two races here, then do the Arlington Million, and then, depending on how he ran in the Arlington Million, come back to the Atto Mile from there," Attfield said.

"The cutback in distance is fairly easy, because we've been gradually doing that in his races anyway."

Attfield is hoping the mile will allow Perfect Soul to take advantage of the strong move that has been one of his biggest assets but that has been difficult to regulate at longer distances.

"It appears that there's plenty of speed in this race," Attfield said. "And if the horse will settle, like he did in the Arlington Million, then I think he'll show a big kick down the lane."