08/06/2002 11:00PM

Bravely's ordeal a brief one

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Just exactly where Bravely was in the early hours of last Sunday morning will never be known for certain.

But it's safe to say Saturday's Breeders' Stakes shapes up as a stroll in the park for Bravely compared with his unwilling participation in the mayhem following the fire that ultimately claimed the lives of 32 horses.

"We were very, very lucky," said Catherine Day Phillips, whose horses are located in Barn 6A, just across the road from the barns destroyed by the fire.

The Day Phillips horses were released from their stalls to escape the threat of the blaze, and most were herded to safety in as orderly a fashion as possible.

But many horses, including those freed from the fire-stricken structures, were running loose in the confusion, and some ended up on nearby roads, including Highway 27.

Six horses who had been roaming on the roads or elsewhere were rounded up and deposited in stalls in the Standardbred stable adjacent to the grandstand.

That's where Day Phillips found Bravely on Sunday morning, and she is among the many who heard that Bravely had been spotted on the highway.

"I don't think he was there," she said. "His shoes hadn't shifted at all. Physically, he looked fine."

Later Sunday morning, Bravely was on the first of two loads of Day Phillips horses sent to her Kingfield Farm to avoid the fire's aftermath.

Tuesday, Bravely was back at the track galloping before making the 30-minute trek back to the Kingfield Farm property. Wednesday, the process was repeated.

"We scoped him again, and took his blood again," said Day Phillips. "Everything seems fine."

Now, Day Phillips can only hope there are no aftereffects when Bravely goes in search of his first stakes win in the $500,000 Breeders', the 1 1/2-mile turf race that is the final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

Bravely was entered in the opener of the series, the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate here June 23, but had to be scratched after tests revealed a high white blood cell count.

But in the Triple Crown's second leg, Fort Erie's July 21 Prince of Wales at 1 3/16 miles, Bravely rallied smartly to finish second, beaten three-quarters of a length as a 28-1 outsider.

"We were delighted with the way he ran," said Day Phillips. "He'd been training very well, but he's always trained well.

"He has the talent and the ability. He just hasn't put it together yet."

Day Phillips, however, believes the trip to Fort Erie could have represented a turning point in Bravely's development.

"He's come back a little more focused," she said. "He always used to goof around."

Saturday's distance also will be unknown territory for Bravely, but the same holds true for the other nine Breeders' entrants.

"He has a big, long stride," said Day Phillips. "Hopefully, the mile and a half will be to his liking.

"The race at Fort Erie will help him, fitness-wise, and his breeze here the other day will help him."

That workout came in a special training session for Breeders' candidates on the E.P. Taylor course last Saturday.

Bravely, with Jake Barton in the irons, worked six furlongs in 1:13.20 after setting foot on a turf course for the first time.

"He was a little tentative at first," said Day Phillips, "but I thought he handled it fine."