06/03/2004 11:00PM

A Bit O'Gold moving forward


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Catherine Day Phillips will send out a pair of hopefuls for the June 27 Queen's Plate, A Bit O'Gold and Winter Whiskey, in Sunday's $166,500 Plate Trial Stakes. The Plate Trial is a nine-furlong event for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds at Woodbine.

A Bit O'Gold, the Queen's Plate winter-book favorite, won the $250,000 Coronation Futurity in November, but was badly beaten in his final 2-year-old start, in the Display Stakes. He redeemed himself when he returned from a winter layoff May 8 in the Queenston Stakes. A Bit O'Gold broke slowly from the 1-hole in that seven-furlong sprint and finished second after pressing the pace along the rail.

All things considered, Day Phillips said she was satisfied with A Bit O'Gold's season opener.

"He was nice and relaxed in the gate and just walked out of there, which was unfortunate," Day Phillips said. "It compromised his chances. He's progressed nicely since the race."

Winter Whiskey, who won two stakes at 2, finished 22 lengths back in seventh in the Queenston.

"Winter Whiskey is driving me crazy," Day Phillips said. "He was doing quite well going into the race, but I don't think he liked the muddy track at all. We're going to throw out that race."

Winter Whiskey will run with blinkers for the first time in the Trial.

"I wasn't very happy with his breeze two weeks ago," Day Phillips said. "He didn't gallop out very well and didn't show the enthusiasm that he should have. We put blinkers on for his breeze last weekend, and he went much better."

Twisted Wit earned a 100 Beyer Figure when he won the Queenston in his first outing of the year.

"He had trained well, and I was expecting a huge race from him," said Bob Tiller, who trains Twisted Wit. "He bolted in his last [2-year-old] start, and we put a figure-8 on him to try to get him to relax a little."

Twisted Wit finished fourth the first time he tried a route of ground, in the Grade 2 Grey Stakes. He was a fading sixth after breaking awkwardly in the nine-furlong Coronation.

"He's won four races, from five-eighths to seven-eighths, including three stakes," Tiller said. "This will be our test to see if he belongs in the Plate. He's got to prove that he can go long."

Rounding out the Plate Trial lineup are Niigon, His Smoothness, Strike Em Hard, Rockin' Again, and Little Bentley.

Winter Garden heads Sunday's supporting feature, the $108,000 Sweet Briar Too Stakes.