09/10/2003 11:00PM

Wando installed as 5-2 favorite in well-matched Atto


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Wando, who has gathered a dedicated following through his sweep of the Canadian Triple Crown, will be looking to take his game to a new level here Sunday when he faces 10 rivals in the Grade 1, $1 million Atto Mile.

The seventh running of the Atto Mile, a turf race for 3-year-olds and up, is a wide-open contest in which very few of the entrants can be eliminated with confidence.

Wando, who drew post 5 Thursday, is Daily Racing Form's tepid morning-line favorite at 5-2. The colt's popularity, and his undoubted talent, could balance the facts that he is moving into open company and cutting back from 1 1/2 miles.

Mike Keogh, who trains Wando for owner-breeder Gustav Schickedanz, was satisfied with Wando's position, inside the main speed of the race.

"We're coming off a mile-and-a-half race," Keogh said. "You have to expect him to be coming from out of it."

Wando, one of two 3-year-olds in the lineup, gets in with 114 pounds under the allowance conditions of the Atto Mile, but his jockey, Patrick Husbands, may ride overweight.

Sarafan and Touch of the Blues, both coming off sharp stakes scores in California for trainer Neil Drysdale, are worthy challengers.

Corey Nakatani retains the mount on Sarafan, who is DRF's second choice at 3-1 and one of the 121-pound co-highweights.

Touch of the Blues, paired with regular rider Kent Desormeaux, is the 7-2 third choice and gets in with 119 pounds.

Sarafan drew post 1 and Touch of the Blues post 3, which did not sit that well with assistant trainer Robert Guest.

"It's tough for both horses," Guest said. "They're closers drawn inside in an 11-horse field. We'll be hoping the others all break fast."

Locally based Soaring Free and Perfect Soul also carry 121 pounds and should be well supported.

Soaring Free, undefeated in five starts this year, will have regular rider Todd Kabel in the irons and will start from the outside. He is owned by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Mark Frostad

"He's got tactical speed," Frostad said. "It won't be a problem getting a spot before they get to the turn."

Perfect Soul, shortening up after finishing a close fifth in the Arlington Million for trainer Roger Attfield, has a new rider in Jose Santos.

Rounding out the field are invaders Tap the Admiral, Freefourinternet, and Moonshine Hall, as well as locals Chopinina, Numerous Times, and Wake at Noon, all of whom have been Canadian champions.

Tap the Admiral and Freefourinternet ran one-two in the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap over a mile on turf at Churchill Downs in July.

Chopinina finished second as the only female in last year's Atto Mile, while Numerous Times won the 2001 renewal.

Wake at Noon is Canada's reigning horse of the year, champion older male, and champion sprinter, but he is unproven on turf.