08/29/2004 11:00PM

Soaring Free: First the Atto, then BC Mile


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Soaring Free established himself as the probable favorite for the $1 million Atto Mile here at Woodbine Sept. 19 with a comfortable score in last Saturday's Grade 3 Play the King Handicap, but it didn't come without a few anxious moments.

Carrying high weight of 126 pounds, Soaring Free stumbled when he bumped with Dalavin at the start of the seven-furlong turf race. After regrouping, he assumed a three-wide stalking position, took a clear lead early in the stretch, and then repelled two challenges to prevail by three-quarters of a length.

Mark Frostad, who trains Soaring Free for Sam-Son Farm, said the gelding was none the worse for wear the next day.

"He got banged around pretty good coming out of the gate," Frostad said. "I think he was thrown offstride and got a little mixed up. It took a while for him to get his feet under him. He came back with some marks on his bandages, but that's about it."

Frostad was pleased with the way the freewheeling Soaring Free won the Play the King.

"He relaxed nicely in the race - he'll do that now," Frostad said. "Everybody thinks that he's got to have the lead, but he doesn't."

Frostad's ultimate goal for Soaring Free is the Breeders' Cup Mile at Lone Star on Oct. 30. After running second in the 2003 Atto, Soaring Free finished 3 1/4 lengths back in fifth in the BC Mile at Santa Anita.

"I'd like to get him to [the BC Mile] really fresh," Frostad said. "He's certainly fit now, and it's just a matter of maintaining him. Hopefully, he'll stay sound. I think the track at Lone Star will suit him to a 'T.' It's a smallish inner course, with tight turns. He'll be placed forwardly, and won't be in all the traffic, which could be a big factor."

Sam-Son has other good prospects

Parasail, Soaring Free's 4-year-old full brother, won a six-furlong allowance with ease on the grass Aug. 21 following a 10-month layoff. Frostad believes Parasail has the potential be as good as his older brother.

"He's been very immature and backward," Frostad said. "He's taken a long time to develop. He's a very long horse, who's getting taller. He's starting to look like Soaring Free. I thought his race the other day was pretty tough for his first start back, but he ran great."

Surging River, victorious in the With Approval Handicap on Aug. 8, is another up-and-coming Sam-Son runner. A 4-year-old by Gone West, Surging River is slated to compete Friday at Saratoga in the $65,000-added Troy Stakes, a one-mile turf race.

"I think he's a pretty useful horse," Frostad said. "His best trip is probably a mile."

Sam-Son's most promising 2-year-old might be Dance With Ravens, a massive A.P. Indy colt out of 1991 Canadian Horse of the Year Dance Smartly. Dance With Ravens was reluctantly loaded into the gate for his Aug. 22 debut, in a maiden special on the grass, and finished a troubled third.

"I was happy with that race," Frostad said. "He'll learn from that. He got into a lot of trouble. He should move right along off that race - it was like six works for him. He's very big, and it's tough to get those types of horses fit, but racing can really do that. It's better for them than working every week."

Dance With Ravens is a half-brother to two Queen's Plate winners, Dancethruthedawn and Scatter the Gold. Frostad said Dance With Ravens has the right credentials to be a top prospect.

"Conformation-wise, he's gorgeous," Frostad said. "With that breeding, he should turn out to be a pretty nice horse."

Atto supplement for Frank's Selection?

Frank's Selection, a 40-1 outsider in the Play the King, overcame a rough trip to finish second. An 8-year-old trained by Robert Griem, Frank's Selection was checked on the backstretch while bumping repeatedly with another rival, and closed stoutly in the final furlong after awaiting room.

Frank's Selection isn't nominated to the Atto, but Griem, who is based at Fort Erie, said he will consider supplementing to the race, at a cost of $50,000.

"He has won at a mile against easier opponents, but a mile is a little out of his reach," Griem said. "Seven-eighths is his game. I'll have to see how he comes out of this race. It's going to be tough, but I'm not ruling it out."

* Woodbine-based apprentice rider Emma Wilson won her first race Saturday at Fort Erie aboard Ali Olah in the second race. It was just the second mount for Wilson.

* Pat Filipelli earned $23,062.50 for winning the $56,250 Thoroughbred Handicapping Challenge held last weekend at Woodbine. Ray Arsenault finished second and Joe Rich was third. All three earned a place in the 2004 Daily Racing Form/NTRA Handicapping Championship in January in Las Vegas.