09/17/2004 12:00AM

So far, an imperfect soul


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Roger Attfield and owner/breeder Charles Fipke have endured more than their share of trials and tribulations with Perfect Soul this season.

But Perfect Soul, a 6-year-old who will be heading to the breeding shed at the end of his current campaign, still has plenty of time to redeem himself and can take the first step here Sunday in the Grade 1, $1 million Atto Mile.

"It's been frustrating," acknowledged Attfield, who has seen Perfect Soul suffer through various physical setbacks and poor racing luck, starting just four times in 2004.

The year, in fact, had dawned brightly for Perfect Soul, who won the Grade 2 Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland on April 9, his first start in more than five months.

But then the troubles began.

Sent back to Kentucky for the May 1 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, Perfect Soul floundered after a deluge turned the turf course into a veritable bog, and he emerged from the race sore in body and spirit.

Woodbine's May 30 Connaught Cup was to be Perfect Soul's next engagement, but the horse bruised a foot after kicking the wall of his stall and was not even nominated to that race.

Then, Perfect Soul was on target for the King Edward Gold Cup here June 19 but was not entered after he began coughing just days before the race.

Recovering quickly, Perfect Soul was sent back to Churchill Downs for the July 3 Firecracker, where he was launching his trademark late rally when he was sideswiped by an errant Senor Swinger.

"He was body-slammed," said Attfield, who watched Perfect Soul finish third but get second money via disqualification. "He was body-sore after that, too. It was understandable."

Next up was the Chinese Cultural Centre, a 1 3/8-mile turf race here July 25 that was to serve as Perfect Soul's stepping-stone to the Arlington Million.

But a fifth-place finish there ruled out the Chicago expedition, and Attfield elected to train Perfect Soul to the Atto Mile.

"He's just not as effective going a mile and three-eighths," said Attfield. "So I freshened him up, and he's doing exceptionally well.

"He's done very well off layoffs. He's coming to this race right."

Perfect Soul, in fact, is almost perfect coming off the bench, having won the first start in each of his three campaigns. The Firecracker ended a nine-week layoff, and the Atto Mile will be his first start in eight weeks.

Perfect Soul also appears to have posed a puzzle for certain riders, with his only victories coming under Robert Landry (four) and Edgar Prado (three).

Jose Santos was aboard for the first time last year when Perfect Soul rallied from 11th place to finish third in the Atto Mile.

"The first time Santos rode him he was too far out of it," said Attfield. "He was scorching down the lane.

"But he's really not a difficult horse to ride. Prado rides him so well because he times his run perfectly. He has a devastating kick if he's ridden right."

With Prado otherwise engaged on Sunday, the task of finding the right touch has fallen to Corey Nakatani, who was aboard for last year's Arlington Million, when Perfect Soul rallied to the front in midstretch only to come out on the short end of a blanket finish.

"Nakatani really liked him," said Attfield. "He realized he hadn't ridden him quite right there, because he didn't know him. He moved too soon."

With the prospect of a decent pace for Sunday's Atto Mile, Perfect Soul could begin a triumphant farewell tour, which would include a return visit to Keeneland for the Shadwell Turf Mile on Oct. 9 and a jaunt to Lone Star Park for the Breeders' Cup Mile on Oct. 30.

Perfect Soul became a Grade 1 winner under Prado in last year's Shadwell Turf Mile and then finished ninth in the Breeders' Cup Turf at Santa Anita, from a difficult post with Santos aboard.

"We might do the same as last year, if all's well," said Attfield. "This race will be the indicator of what we do."