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Minor adjustment for Perfect Soul
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Rain in Toronto, and the prospect of more on the way, forced trainer Roger Attfield to change Perfect Soul's training schedule, just days before he runs Saturday in the Arlington Million. Scheduled for a Wednesday breeze, Perfect Soul had what Attfield termed "a little dirt work" on Tuesday morning.
Set in the context of months of preparation, the change is trifling. All season, Perfect Soul has stayed the course Attfield charted months ago.
"We sort of planned on this race back in February," Attfield said from his Woodbine base. "To this point, everything has gone pretty much the way we hoped."
Perfect Soul has made four starts this year, winning twice and placing twice. One loss came on an extremely soft Pimlico course. The other was a surprising defeat July 20 at Woodbine, where Perfect Soul prepped for the Million in the Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes and was caught late by Strut the Stage, a horse he'd easily beaten a month earlier in the King Edward Breeders' Cup.
"He was beaten by a nice horse, but the way he went about running the race gave the other horse a target to run at," Attfield said. Attfield also speculated that at 1 3/8 miles, the distance was beyond Perfect Soul's best. "I truly believe this horse is best from a mile to a mile and a quarter," he said.
Perfect Soul's King Edward, which earned a 106 Beyer Speed Figure, was one of the most impressive grass races this season. And Attfield ranks Perfect Soul in the same class as With Approval, whom he trained to a second-place finish in the 1990 Million, one of the fastest ever.
Perfect Soul, a Sadler's Wells 5-year-old, started training at 2 with trainer Bob Baffert, but never made the races for him. Attfield said Perfect Soul had shin problems, then cracked a cannon bone, an injury that required surgery. Attfield took over his training early in 2002, and in six races Perfect Soul went from an unraced maiden to a start in the Breeders' Cup Turf. That race was a disaster, with Perfect Soul last by 20 lengths, but clearly aberrant.
"He was a handful at first, quite studdish, but once he got into a routine he got better and better," Attfield said. "He's a different horse altogether, now."
Monday, Perfect Soul picked up his Million rider, Corey Nakatani, who has never ridden the horse before. He replaces Robert Landry, aboard for Perfect Soul's last two starts. Perfect Soul was scheduled to board a van early Wednesday morning and arrive here that afternoon.
He will beat by a day the last Million horse shipping to Arlington, Perfect Drift, who vans from Louisville on Thursday. Saturday, Perfect Drift worked an easy five furlongs at the Trackside training center, though trainer Murray Johnson timed the gelding's last furlong in just over 11 seconds.
The Tin Man and Storming Home were due in Tuesday from California, and the eight European horses in the Million are on the grounds. Tuesday, the star horse Sulamani went out at 5:45 a.m. for an easy jog, but will get more serious exercise on turf either Wednesday or Thursday.
Serious prep for Walzerkoenigin
While the European Million hopefuls had rather easy days, Walzerkoenigin, the German filly bound for the Beverly D., worked a half-mile on turf under her race rider, Andreas Suborics. Walzerkoenigin broke off a couple lengths behind her stablemate, Chan Chan (who runs this weekend in the $100,000 John Henry), before moving to engage him in midstretch and eventually pass him just before the finish.
"From what I saw, it was enough," said Walzerkoenigin's trainer, Peter Schiergen, a former champion rider in Germany.
Walzerkoenigin has won multiple Group 2 races, including one at 1 1/4 miles, a half-furlong longer than the Beverly D. The first European horse to arrive on the grounds, Walzerkoenigin has appeared relaxed since she got here, and that trait was one reason she has made the trip from Germany.
"Early in the year this was the idea," Schiergen said. "She's absolutely cool. She has a good character. She's raced on left-handed turns and right-handed turns. It doesn't matter to her."
Horse racing is not a matter of life and death, but in a roundabout way, the outcome of Arlington Million XXI could dramatically affect the outlook of one person with an interest in the race.
Wendy McNally, who traveled here with Million contender Kaieteur from England for her boss, trainer Brian Meehan, is in remission after being diagnosed with leukemia shortly after returning home from Chicago last year. McNally said she used thoughts of getting back to work as her inspiration when enduring a dreadful period of several months.
"Bringing this horse here has been my goal," said McNally, who last year came over with Freefourinternet, the eight-place Million finisher. "I consider him to be part of my therapy. It may seem strange to put a horse ahead of a husband and family, but this horse is special. It may seem like a fairy tale for me to come here to try and win this race with him, but racing is full of fairy tales, isn't it?"
Kaieteur, a 4-year-old colt owned by Susan McCarthy, finished third, beaten just over two lengths, in his last start, the Group 1 Coral Eclipse Stakes on July 5 at Sandown in England. His sire, Marlin, won the 1997 Million.
Kaieteur, bred in Kentucky by Nelson McMakin, figures in the 15-1 range with Arlington's leading jockey, Rene Douglas, scheduled to ride.
Threatening weather likely to pass
Training here Tuesday was conducted under some rather ominous clouds, but the weather forecast for the weekend is far less menacing.
The forecast all the way through Saturday calls for dry conditions and high temperatures in the low 80's, a stark contrast to what transpired here 10 years ago, when easily the wettest Million in history was conducted under miserable conditions.
Star of Cozzene, the 4-5 favorite under Jose Santos, won the 1993 Million over a veritable bog. Rain absolutely pounded the track all day, ultimately leading Shug McGaughey, trainer of Star of Cozzene's archrival, Lure, to scratch from the race.
The loss of Lure from what figured to be a sensational match-up only compounded Arlington's tough luck that year. That summer, an outbreak of equine viral arteritis (EVA) at Arlington threatened the running of the Million, although track officials eventually patched together all three of the scheduled Grade 1 races.
Ajedrez likely stakes-bound
A stakes race likely awaits Ajedrez, who on Sunday won his third straight race since being imported from Argentina.
Part of a three-horse package purchased by Frank Calabrese, Ajedrez has yet to be tested at Arlington while running through his first three allowance conditions. He was the easiest kind of winner here Sunday, running one mile in a fast 1:35.70.
"We'll probably look for a little stakes," said trainer Wayne Catalano. "We'll see how he comes out of it, but he hasn't had to work that much, so maybe we'll be all right. He might be the one we've been looking for."
Bondon-Peltz to get Chenery award
Arlington Park hosts it's inaugural "Women in Racing Charity Luncheon" on Thursday. The proceeds from the invitation-only benefit go to Arlington's "Riding for a Cure" foundation and the American Cancer Society. At the function, Amy Bondon-Peltz will be honored as the winner of the first Penny Chenery Distinguished Woman in Racing Award. Ms. Chenery will attend the luncheon and present the award.
Dermer dies, funeral Wednesday
Marty Dermer, a longtime fixture in Chicago racing, died Monday in Vernon Hills after a brief illness. He was 58.
Until several years ago, Dermer had made the morning line for some 25 years at Arlington, where he also worked in other media-related capacities. He also worked at Chicago's two South Side tracks, Sportsman's and Hawthorne, and was a frequent participant in handicapping contests in Las Vegas and elsewhere.
Funeral services were scheduled for Wednesday.
- The three Grade 1 races here Saturday will be packaged in a pick four wager with a guaranteed pool of $250,000. The pick four will be carded as 8 through 11, with one other overnight race filling out the bet.
- additional reporting by Marty McGee