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HORSE RACING

Touch Of The Blues Finds Route to Win

September 15, 2003|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

In Touch Of The Blues' bid to win the Atto Mile a year ago, jockey Corey Nakatani found himself trapped on the rail, unable to overtake the horses in front of him. A foul claim by Nakatani was disallowed as Touch Of The Blues, beaten by only two lengths, settled for fifth place.

Touch Of The Blues was back for another crack at the $1-million Woodbine race on Sunday. He was ridden in suburban Toronto this time by Kent Desormeaux, who chose a safer but longer way home by taking the wide route to the wire. Unimpeded, Touch Of The Blues won by a half-length, giving Desormeaux, trainer Neil Drysdale and Sheik Maktoum bin Rashid al Maktoum of Dubai, the owner and breeder of the horse, their second win in the race. They had teamed to win the grass stake in 1998 with Labeeb.

For Drysdale, this could have been his third win in six tries in the Atto, but in 1999 his Hawksley Hill, after finishing first, was disqualified because Pat Day accidentally struck another horse with his whip.

The 6-year-old Touch Of The Blues had lost eight consecutive races and been winless for more than 15 months, when he broke the Del Mar course record for a mile on grass in the Wickerr Handicap on Aug. 2. Touch Of The Blues' time on Sunday was 1:33 1/5, three-fifths of a second off the Woodbine record.

Soaring Free finished second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Perfect Soul. Fourth was Wando, this year's Canadian Triple Crown champion and the 3-1 favorite. Wando made the lead in the stretch and was passed by Soaring Free before Touch Of The Blues, eighth of 11 horses after the opening half-mile, made his winning move.

"He was always at the end of my fingertips, waiting to explode," Desormeaux said. "He's a very talented horse. I didn't get to the leader as quick as I thought I would, but this guy stuck to the task."

The French-bred Touch Of The Blues, who has been with Drysdale in California since early in 2001, earned $600,000 -- $95,000 less than his pre-race career total -- and paid $12.90 to win. Touch Of The Blues, who has won eight of 33 starts, is scheduled to run in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland on Oct. 4. Then Drysdale might consider the Breeders' Cup Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 25. Touch Of The Blues' run in last year's Mile, at Arlington Park, was compromised when a horse broke down in front of him entering the stretch. Touch Of The Blues finished 10th.

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At Belmont Park, trainer Todd Pletcher's 2-year-old fillies, Marylebone and Lokoya, ran 1-2, separated by only a nose at the wire, in the $200,000 Matron Stakes. Favored Feline Story was fourth. A race later, Cuvee, one of the best 2-year-old colts in the country, beat Value Plus by 8 1/4 lengths in the $200,000 Futurity. Cuvee, with three stakes wins and four wins in five starts, is not expected to run again before the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. Pletcher's pair might further prep for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in the Frizette at Belmont on Oct. 4.

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Times wire services contributed to this report.

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