06/16/2004 11:00PM

It's time to watch out for Wando


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Wando, Canada's reigning Horse of the Year, will make his first start of the Woodbine meeting Saturday in the Grade 2, $324,300 King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap. The King Edward will be run at 1 1/8 miles on the turf and has attracted a field of five.

Wando, the 2003 Canadian Triple Crown winner, was also voted the Sovereign Award as champion 3-year-old last year. His fourth-place on turf, here in the Grade 1 Atto Mile in September, came five weeks after his victory in the Breeders' Stakes, also on turf, and was one of his better efforts, according to trainer Mike Keogh.

"Even though he got beat, I thought his Atto Mile was a superb race," Keogh said. "He was coming off a mile-and-a-half race against 3-year-old Canadian-breds, and was beaten two lengths for it all, against some of the best milers in the world."

Wando has made two starts this year, both on the grass. He led throughout an April 18 classified allowance at Keeneland, and was seventh in the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico on May 15. Keogh felt that Wando didn't disgrace himself in the nine-furlong Dixie.

"He had a bad post," Keogh said. "He was up on the lead all the way, and they went the three-quarters in 1:10. He ended up being beaten four lengths for it all, and they broke the track record by a second.

"The form held up really well from that race," Keogh pointed out, noting the horse who won, Mr O'Brien, came back to finish third in the Grade 1 Manhattan after getting into all kinds of trouble. "He should have won it," Keogh said. "The horse who was second in the Manhattan, Millennium Dragon, finished just [two lengths] in front of Wando in the Dixie."

Keogh believes that Wando is more effective in one-turn races, like the King Edward, than in two-turn races. "I think it suits him better," he said. "The two turns might be a bit too much for him."

Patrick Husbands has the mount on Wando, the 118-pound highweight.

Others entered in the nine-furlong race include Slew Valley, who captured the Grade 3 Connaught Cup Stakes here May 30 after shipping in from New York.

Trainer Reade Baker said he's content with Slew Valley's current condition, although he was concerned with the horse's rapid six-furlong work, in 1:11.20, over the main track June 13.

"I might have set him back a tad, by asking him to work too quickly the other day," Baker said. "But he's eating great and feeling great. He's a big, sound, healthy horse."