12/01/2008 12:00AM

Ex-sprinter adapts well to routes


STICKNEY, Ill. - It's Never to Late is the horse's name, but the phrase also applies to the trajectory of the horse's career. As in, it's never too late to try something new.

A decent sprinter in his first eight races, It's Never to Late only got a chance to run long this fall at Hawthorne, but in two starts, he has shown that's what he really wanted to do. It's Never to Late bucked an anti-rail-speed bias to lead all the way in his route debut over entry-level allowance horses here Sept. 26, and on Nov. 5, he wired a decent group of second-level allowance foes, scoring by four lengths. And that makes It's Never to Late the horse to catch and beat in Hawthorne's featured sixth race Wednesday, a third-level optional $50,000 claiming route.

"I was thinking about stretching him out at Arlington," said Danny Miller, who trains It's Never to Late for owner Frank Calabrese. "But he was running good going short, and looked like he was sitting on a win, so I hated to change something that drastic."

The change finally came when racing moved to Hawthorne, and speed was not holding up well when It's Never to Late won by more than four lengths in September. An October turf loss followed, but It's Never to Late is a much better dirt horse, and proved it with his romp last month. Miller has gotten two subsequent works into It's Never to Late, and said the horse appears to be maintaining his edge. And even though It's Never to Late has drawn inside a couple other front-running types, he and jockey Inez Karlsson still should find their way to the lead.

"I think if he breaks clean, he'll be able to make the lead," Miller said. "This horse has sprinting speed."

Gathering Kings, drawn directly outside It's Never to Late, wired a two-turn Illinois-bred allowance race on Oct. 30. Mare's Ex, who hasn't raced since he was claimed for $40,000 almost a year ago, also has shown speed in his route races. But Miller probably is right, and if It's Never to Late clears off, he will be tough to catch.

Closers with a chance include Stumbling Block, who gets a highly positive two-level class hike off a win for trainer Roger Brueggemann; and both halves of a Brian Williamson-trained entry, Batten, and even more so, Best Buddy.