09/11/2003 11:00PM

Nureyev rules the Atto Mile


Nureyev had a champion's pedigree, racetrack talent and, most important of all, heart and courage. A white-faced son of Northern Dancer, he battled with infertility and a life-threatening fracture of his right hind leg, suffered in 1997, during his 20 years at stud. But those difficulties did not stop him from becoming one of the world's most notable stallions.

Nureyev, a son of the great Northern Dancer, is also the most prolific sire in the short history of the $1 million Atto Mile at Woodbine, and his influence is prevalent in the field for Sunday's seventh edition of the race. Four of the six Atto Mile winners are directly related to Nureyev, including the last three winners.

A $1.3 million yearling purchase in 1978, Nureyev was the champion miler in France in 1980.

He stood one year at stud in France before moving to Walmac International in Kentucky. There, his influence as a sire began with top-class milers, and soon his offspring were winning at any distance on any surface.

In 1997, he suffered a severe fracture to a hind leg and was given less than a 10 percent chance of survival. The efforts to save the stallion were well documented in trade publications. Incredibly, the stallion was able to return to the breeding shed.

Nureyev died at the age of 24 in October 2001 at Walmac. He sired 21 crops, 134 stakes winners and eight champions. His final crop of foals are yearlings of 2003.

Second-generation influence

The first Atto Mile winner, Geri, is a son of Theatrical, one of Nureyev's most accomplished runners. In 2000, Riviera, a son of Kris S. out of a Nureyev mare, won the Atto, and he was followed by Numerous Times, a grandson of Theatrical, and last year's winner, Good Journey, a son of Nureyev.

A favorite and a live longshot in this year's Atto Mile are descendants of Nureyev.

Touch of the Blues, by Cadeaux Genereux, is out of the unraced Nureyev mare Silabteni, a half-sister to Group 1 winner Indian Skimmer. Touch of the Blues has had a steady diet of one-mile turf races throughout his 32-race career and is a Grade 2 winner.

The 6-year-old lowered the Del Mar standard for one-mile on turf Aug. 2 in the Wickerr Stakes when he sped the distance in 1:32.22.

Moonshine Hall, owned by Eugene and Laura Melnyk, has a classic miler pedigree, being a 3-year-old son of the Nureyev stallion Spinning World.

A Group 1 winner in Ireland and France, Spinning World won the Breeders' Cup Mile in 1997 at Hollywood Park, equaling the course record.

Moonshine Hall's dam, the winner Pink Dove, is a daughter of a Washington D.C. International winner, Argument, and a half-sister to an Arlington Million winner, Golden Pheasant.

While only three 3-year-olds have raced in the previous six runnings of the Atto Mile - none finishing better than fourth - Moonshine Hall ran one mile in a sharp 1:33.27 when he won the Charlie Barley Stakes at Woodbine in June for trainer Tony Reinstedler.

The colt is undefeated in three races at the distance and should offer plenty of value for players of the triactor and superfecta.