05/21/2003 12:00AM

It's a new Day with Too Late Now


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Jim Day trains the favorite for this year's Labatt Woodbine Oaks.

Such news hardly would have raised a ripple in the mid-1980's through the early 1990's, when Day was the private trainer for the powerful Sam-Son Farm outfit.

Day won this country's premier race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, then known as the Canadian Oaks, four times in eight years during his Sam-Son tenure.

Classy 'n Smart was Day's first Oaks winner, in 1984. He followed that success with Tilt My Halo (1988), Tiffany's Secret (1990), and Dance Smartly (1991).

During that span, Day also sent out Oaks runners-up In My Cap in 1985, Ruling Angel in 1987, and Wilderness Song, who completed a Sam-Son sweep in 1991.

But Day's days with Sam-Son are a thing of the past, and his current Oaks candidate, Too Late Now, is a different kind of filly.

Too Late Now is by Day's own stallion, Raj Waki, who doubles as the stable pony. Her dam, the unraced Half of Everything, was purchased for $1,000 as a weanling at the local mixed sale.

But Too Late Now has impressed Day as much as any of his former blue-blooded pupils, and the filly stamped herself as the horse to beat in the 1 1/8-mile Labatt Woodbine Oaks on June 8 with her impressive win here in Monday's Grade 1 Selene.

"I never expect too much," said Day, "but I hoped she'd perform that way.

"So far, she's lived up to our hopes. She'd trained like that kind of horse, but sometimes they disappoint in the afternoon."

Too Late Now certainly hasn't disappointed yet. The Selene was her third win in as many outings in a career that began April 5.

The 1 1/16-mile Selene also was the filly's first try around two turns, as her previous starts had come at five and six furlongs.

Day had opted not to run Too Late Now in the Fury, a seven-furlong race here May 4, even though the race represented a tempting payday after he had just shelled out $5,000 to supplement her to the Oaks.

"The Fury certainly was a very appealing race, but I didn't think that was an appropriate spot," said Day, who wanted Too Late Now to try two turns before the Oaks. "I didn't have time to do that and another race."

Day had considered a couple of allowance options for Too Late Now.

"Two weeks ago, we were hemming and hawing," said Day. "Whatever the reason, we decided to roll the dice and go in the Selene."

Now, Too Late Now will be looking to become the first filly since Dance Smartly to win both the Selene and the Oaks.

First Quarter suffers foot injury

First Quarter, a 4-year-old filly who won the Carotene Stakes for Day over 1 1/8 miles on turf here last fall, had been slated to make her 2003 stakes debut in the Grade 2 Nassau, a 1 1/16-mile grass race here June 1.

But that engagement is in jeopardy after First Quarter suffered a setback, finishing third in her seasonal debut here last Thursday.

"She stumbled three jumps out of the gate," said Day. "She came back with her right foot pretty badly injured."

First Quarter, also bred by Day, was making her first start on the main track after winning three of five turf outings and $176,868 during her initial campaign.

Mountain Dawn headed to Oaks

Trainer Mac Benson, whose Mountain Dawn finished fifth in the Selene, also plans to proceed to the Oaks.

"She was kind of disappointing," said Benson. "But when you look at the race, she had a wide trip all the way."

Benson also noted that Mountain Dawn was the third Canadian-bred to finish, beaten 6 1/4 lengths by Too Late Now and just a half-length by fourth-place Seeking the Ring, who races for Sam-Son Farm.

Quiet Dare's dud confuses trainer

Benson remains mystified by the performance of Quiet Dare, a highly regarded Queen's Plate candidate who trailed throughout the 1 1/16-mile Marine here last Saturday.

"He seems to be all right," said Benson. "He just threw in a clunker. He didn't run from the time the gates opened.

"You do everything you can. Maybe I did something I shouldn't have done, the shadow roll or something," he said. A shadow roll was added to Quiet Dare's equipment for the Marine.

Quiet Dare is nominated to next Sunday's 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial, the penultimate stakes stepping-stone on the road to the June 22 Queen's Plate.

"If I don't think I've sorted this out by the time of the Trial, I'll wait for the Victoria Park," Benson said.

The Victoria Park, an open race at 1 1/8 mile, will be run here June 8.

American in Paris to sprint Friday

American in Paris, a speedy and consistent 6-year-old who is owned and trained by Audre Cappuccitti, will make her seasonal debut here in Friday's third race. The six-furlong sprint for $62,500 claimers offers a purse of $55,400.

Friday's nine-race card also could feature the meeting's first turf race, a six-furlong maiden special weight sprint worth $60,600. The first three races scheduled for the grass here this spring have been moved to the main track because of rain.

Memorial held for longtime Ontario horseman

A memorial service was held Tuesday for Dr. John "Jack" Chassels, a longtime participant in Ontario's equestrian and Thoroughbred racing worlds as a rider, trainer, breeder, and veterinarian.

Chassels, who died last Friday, served as one of the veterinarians for E.P. Taylor's Windfields Farm and also was veterinarian to Canada's equestrian team, which won the gold medal at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Jim Day was a member of that team.