11/01/2005 1:00AM

Breeders' Cup a letdown for locals


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The only two Woodbine-based horses competing in the Breeders' Cup on Saturday at Belmont came up empty, as A Bit O'Gold finished last of 13 in the Classic and Knights Templar finished sixth of 10 in the Juvenile Fillies.

But Catherine Day Phillips, who trains A Bit O'Gold, and Danny Vella, who trains Knights Templar, still were able to dream about what might have been as they looked back on a gloomy Tuesday morning here.

"He seemed to handle the track fine when he galloped," said Day Phillips. "He was very happy. Everything went tickety-boo until after saddling."

It was at that point that Day Phillips, looking down from her seat in the stands, saw a racetrack that suddenly looked to be much more sandy than she had anticipated.

"He hates deep sand," said Day Phillips. "He stumbled really badly on post parade and took a few awkward steps. He came back without a shoe on. I think he would certainly have given a better account of himself otherwise."

As it was, A Bit O'Gold was never in the hunt under regular rider Jono Jones.

"If he went there and ran his race and didn't run well, it would have been one thing," said Day Phillips. "But I was disappointed that he didn't get to run his race."

Knights Templar had her chances compromised in the early going of the Juvenile Fillies.

"I thought the race didn't really go as planned," said Vella.

Knights Templar rush up along the rail and tired after leading through a very rapid six furlongs.

"Obviously, the pace was too hot for us," Vella said. "I wish she could have been able to settle for a little while. Then she might have finished a little better and maybe have picked up a small check."

A Bit O'Gold checked back into Woodbine on Monday evening, and Knights Templar arrived at her winter quarters in Florida on Tuesday morning. Neither horse will see action again this year.

"The plan was to give him a break," said Day Phillips of A Bit O'Gold, who won 3 of 7 races and $597,336 this season. "We'll let him unwind a little, then he'll go down to Florida."

A Bit O'Gold, a 4-year-old gelding, will prepare for another Woodbine campaign in 2006.

Knights Templar, however, could be in the entries before returning to Woodbine next spring.

"I'd like to see her run maybe about March, find something down south," said Vella. "Maybe an easy spot, just to get started. We'll see how she runs there before making any more plans."

Knights Templar, being Florida-bred, will not have a surfeit of opportunities here at 3 but can look forward to a race such as the 1 1/16-mile Selene Stakes in the spring.

"There'll be some racing for her here, for sure, but she'll probably be out of town a couple of times, too," said Vella. "Seven furlongs to a mile and a sixteenth is probably what she wants."

Sovereign Award hopefuls

Day Phillips and Vella both will be names in the news heading into this year's Sovereign Awards ceremony, which will be held at the nearby Bristol Place Hotel on Dec. 16.

A Bit O'Gold, a major stakes winner on both dirt and turf, is a Horse of the Year candidate and will attract support in both the older male and turf male categories. Knights Templar will be solidly supported in her division.

Voting for the Sovereign Awards, which will be online only this year, will begin at 9 a.m. Nov. 30 and close at 9 a.m. Dec. 5. To be eligible for consideration, a horse must have made at least three starts in Canada this year by Nov. 27.

Both Day Phillips and Vella also have other Sovereign Award hopefuls.

Jambalaya, a turf specialist trained by Day Phillips, won Woodbine's Breeders' and Saratoga's Grade 3 Saranac.

Mister Coop, who is trained by Vella, has won three sprint stakes this season, with two of those wins coming over Ontario-sired opposition and the other over Ontario-foaled opposition.

A 6-year-old gelding, Mister Coop's next stakes target is the $125,000 Sir Barton, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward here Nov. 27.

Invitational pointing to Mrs. Revere

Day Phillips also is looking out of town for Invitational, a 3-year-old filly who became a stakes winner in the Carotene over 1 1/8 miles on turf here Oct. 8.

Invitational has been nominated to the Grade 2, $150,000 Mrs. Revere, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies at Churchill Downs Nov. 12.

On the local front, Day Phillips said she expects to be relatively quiet over the final five weeks of the meeting.

"We have two 2-year-olds left to run and some claiming horses that are going," said Day Phillips. "For the most part we're pretty much winding down, tidying up."

Vella said he hopes to be relatively active through the weeks leading up to the Dec. 11 closing.

"We're still fairly busy," said Vella. "We have a couple of nice maidens coming around."

Vella also could send out Sir Blitz, a grass-loving 6-year-old gelding who had a four-race winning streak halted when he ran third here last Sunday in the Labeeb Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on turf.

Sunday is the last scheduled day of turf racing for the meeting.