09/06/2001 12:00AM

It's a new, improved Affirmed Success in Mile


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - When Affirmed Success came to town for the 2000 Atto Mile, he was a 6-year-old in the midst of a transition from main-track sprinter to turf miler.

And while his performance level on dirt has not waned, Affirmed Success is going into this year's Grade 1 Atto Mile on Sunday as one of the premier turf milers in North America.

Affirmed Success, owned by Albert Fried Jr. and trained by Rick Schosberg, made a successful turf debut in Belmont's one-mile Poker last year, and followed up with an allowance victory over 1 1/16 miles of grass at Saratoga.

He has started only twice this season, winning the Grade 3 Jaipur in his opener - a race that was switched from grass to the main track - and then taking his second straight Poker at Belmont on July 4.

"He's going in a little fresher than he did last year," said Schosberg. "Last year, we ran him once up at Saratoga, but that was mainly because he had such limited turf experience.

"And, being that we were pointing for the Breeders' Cup Mile and it was at Churchill, it was going to be a two-turn race and he had even less experience running two turns. This year, he's a lot more experienced on the grass, and the Breeders' Cup is here at Belmont Park, which is virtually a one-turn mile.

"What we wanted to do is have him good and fresh and ready for the big one, and this is the first big one."

After finishing third here in last year's Atto Mile, Affirmed Success ran two more huge turf efforts at the distance, running second in Belmont's Kelso and fourth, beaten less than a half-length, in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

And although Affirmed Success now is 7, Schosberg believes he hasn't lost a step.

"I think he's at least as good as he was last year," Schosberg said. "I think he probably looks better now than he's ever looked in his entire career.

"I think he's traveling better, and he's carrying such tremendous flesh this year. Mr. Fried has given us the opportunity to manage this horse so meticulously throughout his career, to really try and do everything we can to win the Breeders' Cup with him."

This year's Mile at the World Thoroughbred Championships would be the fourth appearance by Affirmed Success in a Breeders' Cup event. His first two came in the Sprint, in which he ran sixth at Belmont in 1998 and 12th at Gulfstream in 1999.

Jerry Bailey, who rode Affirmed Success in the 1999 Breeders' Cup, has taken over as his regular rider this year, replacing Jorge Chavez.

"Bailey's got a lot of experience winning a tremendous amount of stakes on the grass," said Schosberg. "The opportunity came up, and we took it."

Smither in saddle for jog

Affirmed Success, who checked in from Saratoga on Wednesday afternoon along with his groom, James Stukes, and fellow Atto Mile participant Brahms, jogged on the main track Thursday.

"He was nice and loose, feeling good," said local trainer Bruce Smither, who was aboard Affirmed Success for his exercise.

Smither will run a horse in a stakes here Sunday, sending out Except for Wanda for owner George Richter in the Grade 2 Canadian Handicap, the 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares on the Atto Mile program.

Brahms back from break

Brahms, a 4-year-old who is owned by Dr. Thomas Van Meter II and trained by Elliott Walden, exercised on the training track Thursday.

"He had a nice, easy gallop," said Debbie Stokes, a Walden assistant who came up from Arlington to oversee the colt's final preparations.

Brahms, who began his career in Ireland and England but stayed in North America after finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Gulfstream, was 4 for 4 when he returned to turf last year, including a win by disqualification in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby.

But he has experienced the flip side of that success this season, failing to win in four starts, but never finishing worse than third, beaten a total of 5 1/2 lengths and running into trouble in his three turf outings.

Brahms will be making his first start since June 16, when he raced on the main track at Churchill Downs, running a respectable third in the Grade 2 Stephen Foster.

"He's had a bit of a break," said Graves. "He's the type of horse you can't really let him do too much; he gets too high. But he's been starting up with some good breezes, getting ready for this race."

* Irish Prize, owned by Gainsborough Farm and trained by Neil Drysdale, had his first look at the E.P. Taylor turf course here Thursday, galloping under his regular exercise rider Marcelino Olguin, the uncle of local jockey Gerry Olguin. Louve Mysterieuse, a 5-year-old mare who also is trained by Drysdale and who accompanied Irish Prize on his trip here from California, also galloped under Olguin and will go in the Canadian.