04/18/2003 12:00AM

Stop Looking: Cotey's latest?

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Dave Cotey has come a long way in a short time.

Cotey, a hands-on owner who became a licensed trainer in 2001, enjoyed a successful first year training the likes of stakes winners Lady Shari and Stage Classic.

The 55-year-old Cotey, who owns a share of all his runners under his nom du course, Dominion Bloodstock, had an even better year in 2002. He improved his stats - in both races and money won - and celebrated Lady Shari's coronation as Canada's champion 3-year-old filly.

While he awaits the return of both Lady Shari and Stage Classic, Cotey is hoping Stop Looking can join the stable's roll of stakes winners. Her quest begins Sunday in the Lady Angela, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-sired 3-year-old fillies.

"She's a big, good-looking filly," said Cotey, who purchased Stop Looking for $10,000 at the local select yearling sale. "She ran so well when she broke her maiden at seven-eighths."

Stop Looking finished fourth in her debut in an Ontario-sired maiden special weight race at 6 1/2 furlongs on turf here last October, and then won for a $62,500 claiming price.

After wintering at nearby Huntington Stud Farm, where she started training in late January, Stop Looking returned to the racetrack in mid-February and made her seasonal bow here March 30.

Stop Looking performed creditably that day, beaten 4 1/2 lengths as the third-place finisher in a first-level allowance race at 6 1/2 furlongs. That despite having been diagnosed with a minor blood disorder.

"She was training so good, eating so good, and looking good so we went ahead and ran her," said Cotey.

On Tuesday, Stop Looking worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 under regular rider Constant Montpellier.

"We took another 'blood' after the work; it was great," Cotey said. "If she improves off that first race at all - and there's no reason why she shouldn't - she should be very competitive."

Cotey is hoping Stop Looking will go from the Lady Angela to the Fury, a seven-furlong race for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies here May 4.

The Fury is a major stepping-stone to the $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks, a 1 1/8-mile race here June 8.

Lady Shari works, nears race

Lady Shari worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 Tuesday and should be ready to run within the next couple of weeks. Her 2002 highlights included Grade 3 wins over males in the 1 3/8-mile Canadian Derby at Northlands Park and a win over older fillies and mares here in the 1 1/4-mile Maple Leaf.

"She's never galloped as good as she has right now," Cotey said. "She's stronger than she's ever been. She's really matured up nice."

Lady Shari, a Kentucky-bred who is best in route races, would not appear to have many local options. Cotey, however, is not averse to taking the road less traveled.

"We'll have to try different things," said Cotey, suggesting that running against males in the 1 1/4-mile Dominion Day Handicap here June 30 may be one such opportunity.

Stage Classic ready for turf season

Stage Classic, a 5-year-old gelding who has earned $517,890, is gearing up for another turf campaign.

"He's coming along good, real nice," Cotey said. "As soon as grass racing starts, he should be ready."

Stage Classic's first assignment likely will be the Grade 3, $150,000 Connaught Cup, a 1 1/16-mile race here May 24 which will be the first turf stakes race of the meet.

Wake at Noon ready for Vigil

Wake at Noon, Canada's reigning Horse of the Year and champion sprinter, will be looking to atone for a defeat in his seasonal bow in next Saturday's Grade 3 Vigil Handicap.

The $150,000 Vigil, a seven-furlong race for 4-year-olds and upward, is the first graded stakes race of the Canadian racing season.

A 6-year-old horse owned and bred by Bruno Schickedanz, Wake at Noon finished a closing fourth in the five-furlong Briartic Handicap here opening day.

"He's in good shape right now," said trainer Abraham Katryan. "I guess he needed that one.

"He's getting old, but he still has some running to do. It won't be any surprise if he runs back to where he was a couple of years ago."

Wake at Noon won last year's Vigil after finishing second, beaten a neck by subsequent Met Mile winner Exciting Story, in the 2001 Vigil.

The Vigil also could feature the 2003 debut of Cheap Talk, a Sovereign Award sprint finalist last year.

Cheap Talk, a New York-bredtrained by Bob Tiller, was entered in the April 6 Jacques Cartier but was scratched before the announcement that the card was canceled. The stewards ruled the scratch would stand when the Jacques Cartier was rescheduled for April 11.