06/08/2003 11:00PM

Concern gives way to relief for Day

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Nothing went according to plan for Too Late Now in Sunday's Labatt Woodbine Oaks.

Nothing, that is, except the result, as Too Late Now had enough left to fend off an onrushing Seeking the Ring and win the $500,000 Oaks by a rapidly diminishing neck.

"It was getting very squeaky at the end," said Jim Day, who bred Too Late Now and trains the filly for the Come By Chance Stable of his mother, Edna Arrow.

Day's worries actually began the moment the gates opened for the Oaks.

Too Late Now, who had run so well from just off the pace to win her first three starts, including the 1 1/16-mile Selene here May 19, found herself alone in front heading into the first turn under her regular rider Robert Landry.

"We were prepared for her to possibly drag him to the lead," Day said. "We weren't going to be in a battling situation, to get her off the pace.

"She left the gate kindly and I thought it was no big deal, that she was going easy. Then I looked up, and saw that [22.60-second] quarter . . . "

Seeing Too Late Now on an unwanted lead made Day recall a similar situation, less than 24 hours earlier, which had an unhappy ending for the front-running favorite.

"Down the backside I was thinking 'Funny Cide, Funny Cide,'" said Day, who had additional cause for alarm when Buffalo Jump, racing just inside Too Late Now, suffered a fatal breakdown around the far turn.

But when Too Late Now straightened out into the stretch, Day finally began to feel comfortable.

"I thought she was going to have an easy time of it down the lane," Day said. "Then, all of a sudden, I was looking for the wire."

Do the math

By now, most have heard that Too Late Now's sire, Raj Waki, alternates life styles as a stallion at Day's farm during the breeding season and the stable's pony here at the racetrack.

And her dam, Half of Everything, was purchased as a weanling for $1,000 and did not make it to the races.

Too Late Now's heritage was one of the prime reasons she was not kept eligible for the Oaks and had to be supplemented at a cost of $5,000 May 1.

"My broodmare band wouldn't support nominating anything to races like the Oaks," said Day, who won four renewals of the Oaks during his tenure as private trainer for the well-stocked Sam-Son Farm.

"It makes more sense to supplement the occasional one, if one comes along," Day said.

That one definitely has arrived in Too Late Now, whom Day will now point for Fort Erie's $250,000 Labatt Bison City, the 1 1/16-mile race that is the second leg of the Canadian Triple Tiara, on July 1.

Too Late Now was not kept eligible for the $1 million Queen's Plate but Seeking the Ring, the Oaks runner-up, is on the list for the 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds here June 22.

"We're not ruling anything out," said Mark Frostad, who trains Seeking the Ring for Sam-Son Farm, "but we're aiming towards the Bison City."

Seeking the Ring, who also was making just her fourth lifetime start, simply ran out of real estate Sunday.

"I just wish they'd written that race at a mile and a eighth and a jump," Frostad said. "She ran a very good race."

Shoal Water may go in Queen's Plate

Sam-Son and Frostad have a potential Queen's Plate entrant in Shoal Water, an impressive winner in his seasonal bow in a first-level allowance race at 1 1/16 miles here May 30.

"We sort of got backed up with him," Frostad said. "He could run in the Charlie Barley, which would make more sense, but we might have to take a shot at the Plate."

The $100,000 Charlile Barley, an open one-mile turf race for 3-year-olds, also will be run here June 22.

Pants N Kisses bought for pocket change

Pants N Kisses, a Kentucky-bred gelding who was making his stakes debut, left five Plate eligibles in his wake here in Sunday's 1 1/8-mile Victoria Park.

Trained by Dave Cotey, who also is a co-owner, Pants N Kisses had been purchased as a yearling for $1,000 and was acquired by Cotey for $3,200.

"I got him from Don McDowell, who is someone I've done business with over the years," Cotey said.

Pants N Kisses started just once at 2, emerging from a second-place finish for $62,500 with a hairline fracture of an ankle, and was in for a lower price when he returned here March 29.

"He'd been training really well," Cotey said. "I just took a shot with him for $32,000, and got away with it.

"He's really on the improve now."

The $150,000 Toronto Cup, a Grade 3, 1 1/8-mile turf race for 3-year-olds here July 12, should be the next test for Pants N Kisses.

"I'd like to try him on turf," Cotey said. "He's got the action for it."

Wando, Arco's Gold work

A pair of Plate candidates turned in one-mile workouts over the weekend. Wando was clocked in an eye-catching 1:37.40 on the main track Saturday, while Arco's Gold worked in 1:40 on the training track Sunday.

Todd Kabel was aboard Wando, while Arco's Gold had Constant Montpellier in the irons. Both horses were joined by stablemates for the last half-mile of their exercises.