08/22/2003 12:00AM

Wake at Noon's next test: The turf


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Wake at Noon already has added one new dimension to his game this year at age 6.

Wake at Noon, owned and bred by Bruno Schickedanz and trained by Abraham Katryan, had never won beyond seven furlongs before capturing the 1 1/16-mile Izvestia here July 20 and the 1 1/16-mile Seagram Cup two weeks later.

Now he will take another crack at a frontier he has yet to conquer, the turf - running in the Grade 1 Atto Mile here Sept. 14.

Wake at Noon would be making his second appearance in the $1 million Atto Mile, having finished 13th of 14, beaten 8 1/4 lengths, in the 2001 running. His only other turf try was in the 2002 Nearctic, a six-furlong race in which he finished ninth in the field of 14, beaten 5 3/4 lengths.

The Atto Mile, in particular, may not have been a true bill for Wake at Noon as he was running back just eight days after finishing a hard-working fourth in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga.

Wake at Noon figures to be part of an intriguing local contingent for the Atto Mile - along with Wando, Soaring Free, Perfect Soul, and Chopinina.

Wando, a 3-year-old colt who recently became the seventh winner of the Canadian Triple Crown by capturing the Breeders' Stakes over 1 1/2 miles of turf here, would be facing older rivals for the first time in the Atto Mile.

Mike Keogh, who trains Wando for owner-breeder Gustav Schickedanz, sees the Atto Mile as an opportunity to get a line on Wando's prospects as a candidate for the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita Oct. 25 while remaining on his home grounds.

Wando also could be considered for the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic on the strength of his impressive victory here over the same distance in the Queen's Plate.

Soaring Free, a 4-year-old gelding who has blossomed into a top-notch turf performer for Sam-Son Farm and trainer Mark Frostad, is undefeated in five starts this year, including the recent Play the King Handicap, a seven-furlong turf race that is the major local prep for the Atto Mile.

Perfect Soul, a 5-year-old horse owned and bred by Charles Fipke, underlined his class when running a close fifth in last weekend's Grade 1 Arlington Million over 1 1/4 miles of turf. He could find the one-mile Atto distance right up his alley.

Chopinina, a 5-year-old mare who was the runner-up to California invader Good Journey in last year's Atto Mile, heads into this year's renewal in good form after winning the Royal North Handicap over six furlongs of turf for Knob Hill Stable and trainer Alec Fehr here Aug. 2.

Domedriver connections interested

Also among the 44 nominees for the Atto Mile is Domedriver, upset winner of last year's Breeders' Cup Mile at Arlington Park.

Domedriver's connections have expressed serious interest in the Atto Mile, according to Woodbine officials.

Based in France with trainer Pascal Bary, Domedriver will be joining the stallion ranks in England at the end of this season.

California-based trainer Neil Drysdale, an Atto Mile regular, trains three of this year's nominees, including Touch of the Blues and Sarafan.

Strut the Stage tops Niagara

Next Saturday's Grade 2, $300,000 Niagara Breeders' Cup Handicap, a 1 1/2-mile turf race that is one of the major local preps for the Canadian International, will be the highlight of a flurry of stakes action here on the upcoming long weekend.

Strut the Stage, coming off a victory over Perfect Soul here in the July 20 Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes over 1 3/8 miles of turf, looms as the horse to beat in the Niagara.

Brass in Pocket, winner of three stakes in 2003, heads the prospective field for next Sunday's $125,000 Seaway, a seven-furlong stakes for fillies and mares.

And Monday, Labor Day, will feature the annual yearling sales stakes program - six $125,000 races for graduates of local yearling sales will be up for grabs.