06/04/2003 12:00AM

Lady Vye thriving at her new home


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Eric Garcea has no regrets about his decision to move to Woodbine from Hastings four years ago.

Garcea, 55, has had particular reason to cheer lately as Lady Vye, a newcomer to his barn this season, has turned plenty of heads by putting together back-to-back wins at long odds.

It is not only the fact, but the fashion of her victories that has raised eyebrows.

Lady Vye was sent off at 30-1 in her first start here, a second-level allowance race at 6 1/2 furlongs, but rallied from well off the pace for a half-length score.

The filly displayed the same modus operandi when stretched out to 1 1/16 miles in a prep for the Ontario Matron Handicap. She won by 1 1/4 lengths, with last year's Sovereign Award-winning older female, Small Promises, among her victims.

"She just kind of gallops along behind the pace, and you think she's never going to get there," Garcea said of Lady Vye. "Then she makes that big move - it makes you drop your jaw a little bit."

Bred in British Columbia by her owners, Nick and Pauline Felicella, the 4-year-old Lady Vye can give Garcea his first local stakes victory here in Saturday's Matron.

Lady Vye had been based at Hastings, in Vancouver, with trainer Rick Kamps, but the Felicellas, who are friends of Garcea, decided Woodbine could prove a good career move for the filly.

Although she won a stakes at Hastings as a 2-year-old and faced the best in her division there through her 3-year-old campaign, Lady Vye just wasn't living up to her potential. Garcea, noting Lady Vye wouldn't switch leads in her Hastings races, thinks she didn't like the track there.

Lady Vye, who arrived in February, certainly has taken a shine to the Woodbine oval.

"She really likes the big, sweeping turn," said Garcea. "And I've got her switching leads - she's a little late getting into that right lead, but when she does, she really comes running.

"She just seems to be thriving here. We spend a lot of time with her; you can do that when you've got a small outfit."

Garcea, who has three horses here, also has come to know Lady Vye particularly well through galloping her in the mornings.

"I think it's a huge edge, as a trainer, when you get on your own horses," said Garcea.

"When I got her she was wearing blinkers, but getting on her in the morning, I didn't feel she really needed them. So I took the blinkers off, and it's made a difference. It's made her relax a little bit more."

Garcea took out his trainer's license in Vancouver in 1972. He spent several years working with Farrell Jones and his son, Gary, as an exercise rider and assistant trainer in Southern California, and returned to Vancouver in 1984.

Garcea has enjoyed his time at Woodbine.

"I'm definitely happy," he said. "It's good racing, and I've been treated pretty good."

Timeform trying to stay on Plate trail

Timeform was considered a long-term candidate for this year's Queen's Plate after defeating fellow Ontario-sired 2-year-olds to record his first lifetime win in the 1 1/16-mile Kingarvie Stakes here Dec. 1.

Despite getting a late start to his 3-year-old campaign, Timeform still could make the scene June 22 for this year's Plate, depending on how he performs in an allowance race Friday.

"We'll have to see how he runs, and how he comes out of the race," said Mike Mattine, who trains Timeform for owner-breeder Ted Burnett.

Timeform has seen action just once this spring, finishing third here on May 14 in a six-furlong allowance for Ontario-sired nonwinners of two, 3 years old and up.

On Friday, he will be competing under the same allowance terms, but over 1 1/16 miles in the $69,900 feature.

"He's come along really good," said Mattine. "He's training really well."

Tiimeform's six rivals will include El Gran Maestro, who finished second in the Kingarvie, and Bravely, runner-up in last year's Prince of Wales.

Owner Englander switches trainers

Richard Englander, the Eclipse Award-winning owner for the past two years, has reshuffled his Woodbine operation and no longer has horses with trainer Mike Wright Jr.

Malcolm Pierce now trains Falwyn and Pat's Approval, who both are entered Friday, plus Halo's Appeal.

Mom's Bright Star and Slot Happy have been assigned to trainer Scott Fairlie.

All five Englander horses had been claimed here this spring.

Wright, who started training for Englander in 2001, had three stakes winners here for the owner: Lucky Molar won the Seagram Cup and Valedictory last year, and Elektraline took the Bessarabian in 2001.

Turf training track reopens

The turf training track was open for just the second time this season on Wednesday, and 48 horses worked over "good" going with the dogs well out.

The more prominent horses on the tab included Portcullis, Canada's reigning champion turf male (five furlongs, 1:00.80), and Perfect Soul (four furlongs, 48 seconds).

* Handicappers Jim Mazur and Jim Bannon will hold a one-hour seminar beginning at 11 a.m. here Saturday, on the second floor of the grandstand. Mazur and Bannon will offer their insights into Saturday's Belmont Stakes and Sunday's Labatt Woodbine Oaks.

* The Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club will hold its monthly meeting here Wednesday, beginning at 8 p.m., in the second-floor International Room.