12/10/2004 12:00AM

Daddy Cool streaks into meet finale


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The $137,375 Valedictory Handicap, Woodbine's closing-day feature, has been won by a diverse cast of runners over the years, from stakes winners to claimers. Daddy Cool, the probable favorite in Sunday's renewal of the 1 3/4-mile marathon, is a combination of the two.

Daddy Cool, trained by Sean Smullen for Stronach Stable, capped a four-race win streak in 2002, when he won Walter Haight Handicap at Laurel Park. After running sixth in another Laurel stakes in January of 2003, he was laid up for nearly a year and a half with a suspensory problem.

Daddy Cool resurfaced at Woodbine this summer, winning two consecutive $32,000 claimers and a tough $62,500 optional claimer. Three weeks ago, he held off Last Answer to win the 1 1/2-mile allowance prep for the Valedictory - and comes into Sunday on another four-race win streak.

Daddy Cool is based at Adena Springs North in Aurora, Ontario, and usually only ventures from the farm to race. But because the Adena track was frozen last Sunday, Daddy Cool shipped to Woodbine for a five-furlong workout, timed in 1:02.60.

"I really didn't want to bring him into the track," Smullen said. "But I had no other option."

Daddy Cool should have no trouble staying the Valedictory distance. "He just likes to gallop all day," Smullen said. "[Jockey Jim McAleney] said that when Last Answer came to him in the prep, he still had a lot left in the tank. He likes to have a horse beside him. He idles a bit when he hits the front too soon."

Norfolk Knight, the 120-pound highweight and likely pacemaker, won three consecutive races, including the Grade 3 Durham Cup Handicap, before winding up third going 1 1/16 miles as the favorite in the Nov. 20 Woodbine Slots Cup.

Trainer Hugo Dittfach said he has few clues regarding Norfolk Knight's ability to handle a long distance. "He's been training for long distances all year," Dittfach said. "When I was a jockey, I rode horses who could go a mile and a quarter, but they couldn't go a mile and three-quarters. I hope that doesn't happen, but it could, very easily. I won't be disappointed if he gets beat a long way. He's doing good, and I'd like to try it."

Raylene, the lone female in the eight-horse field, exits a third-place finish going 1 1/4 miles in the Grade 3 Maple Leaf Stakes.

Also on the closing-day card is the $134,875 Kingarvie Stakes for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds.