04/16/2004 12:00AM

Day Phillips holds two aces


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Last year, trainer Mike Keogh kept Wando and Mobil on separate paths to the $1 million Queen's Plate and the colts delivered on the big day with a knockout one-two punch.

And while trainer Catherine Day Phillips isn't about to project a similar scenario, she does have two solid prospects for the 2004 Queen's Plate in A Bit O'Gold and Winter Whiskey, who both checked back into Woodbine on Tuesday after spending the winter at Classic Mile Farm in Florida.

"They're doing great," said Day Phillips. "They seem to be very happy to be back home."

Day Phillips generally winters her stock in Ontario but opted to head south late last fall with a long-term view toward the Queen's Plate. That decision became even more important when Woodbine announced that it would be postponing the opening of its 2004 meeting, to accommodate extensive barn renovations.

When the six-furlong Woodstock, the first stakes stop on the Plate trail, is run next Saturday there will be just nine weeks remaining to the June 27 Queen's Plate.

The other stakes preps for the 1 1/4-mile Plate are the seven-furlong Queenston, May 8; the 1 1/16- mile Marine, May 22; the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial, June 6; and the 1 1/8-mile Victoria Park, June 13.

Day Phillips believes A Bit O'Gold and Winter Whiskey may have a leg up on much of the potential Plate competition.

"They're both very fit; their confidence is brimming," said Day Phillips.

"And, racing-wise, they're both experienced around two turns and carrying weight. Normally, you're scrapping to run them two turns, to give them the fitness and experience.

"These guys already have that; it's a matter of their being healthy and happy."

A Bit O'Gold and Winter Whiskey both are nominated to the Woodstock, with Winter Whiskey the more likely participant.

"He's training like he really wants more distance," said Day Phillips, who sent out Winter Whiskey to win the seven-furlong Swynford and the 1 1/16-mile Kingarvie last year. "But, he could use it as a stepping-stone."

A Bit O' Gold, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity here last fall, is aiming for the Queenston, and while Day would prefer not to run her two stable stars head to head, she won't rule out starting both in the May 8 feature.

"It may boil down to that," said the trainer. "Seven furlongs suits both horses very nicely, and there aren't a lot of options for either of them."

Holy Bubbette has fitness edge

Holy Bubbette has come a long, long way to make her local debut in Sunday's Whimsical Stakes.

A 4-year-old filly owned by Katherine Elam and trained by David Fawkes, Holy Bubbette hopped into a van after training at Calder on Wednesday and arrived here 25 hours later, at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Fawkes shared the driving duties with his father-in-law, John Scarlett, the van's owner.

"Kathy Elam had a little plan for the filly," said Fawkes, who currently has 28 horses at Calder and is visiting Woodbine for the first time.

"We talked about what our options were, and this looked a good one. We looked over the past performances [of the nominees], and most of them hadn't run this year. She's fit; that always helps."

Fawkes took over as the trainer of Holy Bubbette last winter and the filly has made two starts for him, including a smart allowance victory in her latest at Gulfstream on March 20.

Joe Bravo, who rode Holy Bubbette to her last score, will fly in for the mount Sunday.

Fawkes said that if Holy Bubbette acquits herself well she could remain here for the May 16 Hendrie, the 6 1/2-furlong handicap that is the next stakes here for fillies and mares.

Husbands hires new agent

The biggest news in the annual jockey-agent spring shakeout involves the separation of Patrick Husbands and Tom Patton Jr.

Husbands, who had been represented by Patton and has enjoyed tremendous success here since arriving from Barbados in 1994, has hired Tyler Gaskin, a 24-year-old former jockey who will double as an exercise rider.

"I'll work the horses he can't," said Gaskin, who worked as an exercise rider and a member of the gate crew last year and had expected to be employed as a valet for Husbands this season.

"It should help a great deal. More people will be happy to get their horses out when they want, and they'll still be Patrick's mounts."

Both Husbands and Patton, who will continue to represent Jono Jones, said the break-up was by mutual agreement.

In other jockey-agent developments:

* Julia Brimo, Woodbine's leading apprentice rider and the Sovereign Award winner in the category last year, has a new agent in Roger Poynter, who is returning to the profession. Poynter also will represent journeyman Jack Lauzon.

* Mike Langlais has taken over as the agent for apprentice jockey Chad Beckon, who started riding last year. Beckon had been represented by former jockey Mickey Walls, who now is galloping horses here for trainer Danny Vella.

* Veteran agent John Calleja has picked up the book of apprentice jockey Happy Ando, who launched his career here last fall. Calleja also represents journeyman Simon Husbands, an older brother of Patrick.

* John Bell, agent for reigning champion rider Todd Kabel, also will be booking mounts for veteran Jim McKnight.