03/19/2007 11:00PM

Daytime Promise overdue for a win


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - With two weeks of Aqueduct's inner-track meet remaining, Gary Contessa has already eclipsed his record of 61 winners from the 2005-06 winter session, and it's hard to believe his consistent filly Daytime Promise, who won the Busanda Stakes in just her third start exactly 14 months ago, hasn't accounted for even one of his 64 winners this season.

That state of affairs may be rectified in race 3 on Thursday, when Daytime Promise takes on five rival fillies and mares, including her new stablemate Lila Paige, in a $48,000 optional claiming route at 1 1/16 miles. Daytime Promise and Lila Paige drew widest in posts 5 and 6. Also entered, from the rail out, were Amber Note, Game Card, Point Missed, and Freedom Ridge.

Daytime Promise, a deep closer, is still eligible for this second-level allowance condition because she has lost 10 races in a row since winning the Busanda. Though beaten as the favorite in six of those races, it's not like she has run poorly. On the contrary, she has finished in the money eight times during the streak, six times in stakes. Of her four fastest races, three have come at this meet, including a second in the Rare Treat Handicap last time out.

"She only runs good in stakes races," Contessa said jokingly. He entered Daytime Promise in the $65,000 Lucky Lucky Lucky Stakes last Friday and Sunday, only to see both cards canceled due to the nor'easter that dumped a dangerous mix of snow, sleet, and ice in the New York area. "She keeps increasing the earnings next to her name."

Daytime Promise and Game Card - who ran her best race in seven months to beat a troubled Daytime Promise back on Jan. 11 - would have had the unenviable task of chasing Indian Vale in the Lucky Lucky Lucky, which seemed like a tall order considering the Todd Pletcher-trained Indian Vale was the fastest

3-year-old filly in the nation in 2005.

This time they may be chasing another comebacker from Pletcher, the less accomplished Point Missed, who won 2 of 3 route starts at Delaware Park before going to the shelf last summer.

But handicappers should also expect the freshly claimed Lila Paige to contest the pace.

"Her mission is to go to the front," said Contessa. "Not as a rabbit, but because she's just faster than these horses. My intention is to pull out all the stops and send hard with Lila Paige."