08/19/2003 11:00PM

Perfect Soul headed for Atto


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Somewhat lost amidst the furor following the finish of last Saturday's Arlington Million was the excellent performance of the Canadian invader, Perfect Soul.

Although he finished fifth, Perfect Soul was beaten just three-quarters of a length in the Grade 1, 1 1/4-mile turf race.

The effort was encouraging enough for Roger Attfield, who trains Perfect Soul here for owner-breeder Charles Fipke, to declare the horse a candidate for the Grade 1, $1 million Atto Mile on Sept. 14.

"He's shown he can run against the best," Attfield said. "You can't run against much better than that field was."

For some time, Attfield has entertained the notion that a mile on turf could be Perfect Soul's true calling, even though he has never tried the distance.

Perfect Soul, a 4-year-old who has made all of his 11 career starts on grass, debuted here successfully over seven furlongs last June and then immediately graduated to route racing.

Perfect Soul has been at his most effective traveling 1 1/8 miles this year, and Attfield began to question his colt's long-distance capability in top company after he finished second to Strut the Stage in the 1 3/8-mile Chinese Cultural Centre here July 20.

In the Arlington Million, which was his next start, Perfect Soul circled rivals five wide and hit the front with a furlong remaining. But despite battling hard through the late going, the colt wound up less than a length back under new rider Corey Nakatani.

"He wished he'd ridden him before," Attfield said. "He knew he went too soon. He chirped to him, and didn't know he had that much horse. He just took off on him."

Vella takes aim on sales stakes

Candidates for a couple of divisions of the Sept. 1 yearling sales stakes may be in for some unpleasant surprises as Phantom Light and Winning Chance, a pair of talented 4-year-olds trained by Danny Vella, are taking dead aim on two of the $125,000 races.

Phantom Light and Winning Chance both are homebreds raced by Stronach Stable, but they are eligible for the yearling sales stakes because they went through the ring at local sales here in 2001.

The colt, Phantom Light, was an $85,000 buyback at the open session and is slated for the Elgin, the 1 1/16-mile yearling sales stakes for colts and geldings, 3 and up.

The filly, Winning Chance, was a $60,000 buyback at the same sale and is bound for the Algoma, the 1 1/16-mile yearling sales stakes for fillies and mares, 3 and up.

Vella believes that both Phantom Light and Winning Chance are at the head of their respective classes in Canada when it comes to two-turn dirt races this year.

And, while both are coming off subpar efforts, the trainer is confident they'll be back doing their best work here on Labor Day.

Phantom Light last saw action on July 1, when he finished last of five in the 1 3/16-mile Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park.

"He didn't break well there, and he didn't get a break," said Vella. "Nothing went well for him; that certainly wasn't his best race."

Phantom Light showed what he's capable of here in his start prior to the Washington Park, setting a fast pace and scoring by four lengths in the 1 1/4-mile Dominion Day Handicap for a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 108.

Two starts before that, Phantom Light won the 1 1/16-mile Eclipse Handicap here by 1 1/2 lengths.

Winning Chance opened up her campaign with three straight victories, capped by a six-length romp in the 1 1/16-mile Ontario Matron here June 7, which yielded a career-high Beyer of 102.

But the bubble burst on July 13 when Winning Chance, cutting back to seven furlongs and breaking from the inside post in the Kamar, finished fourth as the 1-2 choice.

"Probably, seven furlongs is not her best distance," Vella said. "The track was very greasy, she was down on the rail, and she didn't break well."

Winning Chance and Phantom Light both enjoyed a bit of freshening-up time on the farm before returning to the racetrack, and both have worked very well recently.

"Obviously, you've got to point at these races," Vella said. "A fall campaign is what I'm kind of looking for, for both of them."

Canadian Derby to be simulcast

Woodbine and its teletheatres will be offering simulcast wagering on Saturday's Grade 3 Canadian Derby, a 1 3/8-mile race from Edmonton's Northlands Park. The post time here is approximately 6:43 p.m.

Last year's Canadian Derby winner, Lady Shari, was based here at Woodbine and went on to be voted the Sovereign Award-winning 3-year-old filly. But Lady Shari was hampered by bleeding problems this year, was unplaced in three starts, and recently was sold to Candlebrooke Farm in Paris, Ky., for an undisclosed sum.

Racehorse charity gets new office

The LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society has moved into its new office above the track kitchen on the Woodbine backstretch.

LongRun, a registered charity, is an adoption and placement program for retired Thoroughbred racehorses in Ontario. Among other recently donated horses, LongRun is seeking homes for former stakes winners Casino Prince and Perlong.

LongRun can be reached at (416) 675-3993, ext. 3440.