05/02/2003 12:00AM

Too Late Now has Day dreaming of Oaks glory


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Jim Day allowed himself a smile earlier this week when he was informed of Dance Smartly's induction into the Thoroughbred Hall of Fame in Saratoga, N.Y.

"She seemed like a 1-5 shot to get in, to me," said Day. "But, maybe I'm prejudiced."

It was Day, of course, who trained Dance Smartly throughout a career that included an undefeated eight-start 1991 campaign that led to her being voted the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old filly and Sovereign Awards as Canada's Horse of the Year and outstanding 3-year-old filly.

Dance Smartly's successes for owner-breeder Sam-Son Farm that year included the Breeders' Cup Distaff, the Molson Million, and the Canadian Triple Crown of the Queen's Plate, Prince of Wales and Breeders', and the Canadian Oaks.

The blue-blooded pedigrees that were a matter of course with Sam-Son Farm have become a thing of the past for Day, who was replaced by Mark Frostad as private trainer for the Samuel family, owners of Sam-Son, in 1994.

But Day is hoping this season will be a throwback to the glory years as the trainer appears to have a serious contender for the June 8 Labatt Woodbine Oaks in Too Late Now, whose origins are a far cry from the likes of a Dance Smartly.

Too Late Now's sire is Raj Waki, who stands for Day at his Day by Day Training Centre in nearby Everett, Ontario, and moonlights as the stable's pony here during the racing season.

Her dam is Half of Everything, a $1,000 weanling purchase by Day at the local mixed sale here in 1995 who never made it to the races.

Despite her humble parentage, Too Late Now is a runner.

"She's trained as well as any horse I've ever had in my life," said Day. "Dance Smartly, Peaks and Valleys, Sky Classic, Wilderness Song - any one you can name."

Day remained enthused over Too Late Now throughout last year, even though the filly did not make it to the races.

"She trained brilliantly," he said. "She was just about ready to run late in the year. I was going to take her away, run her somewhere a time or two just to get her some mileage."

Too Late Now worked on the training track under jockey Robert Landry the day after the end of the 2002 Woodbine meeting, going five furlongs in 59 seconds by Day's stopwatch in a drill that was not officially recorded.

Unfortunately, she came out of the exercise a little the worse for wear.

"She had a little crabby shin," said Day. "That eliminated our traveling plan; I just put her away."

But Too Late Now has been making up for lost time this spring and is undefeated in two starts. She is owned by Come By Chance Stable, the nom de course of Day's mother, Edna Arrow.

On April 5, Too Late Now debuted with a 4 1/2-length score in a five-furlong maiden special weight race, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 81.

On April 20, Too Late Now was a 2 1/2-length winner in a six-furlong entry-level allowance, earning a Beyer of 88.

"She ran extremely well in her first race," said Day. "I didn't do much with her between races but she seemed better, stronger, more mentally composed.

"She ran back with more seasoned horses, and handled that quite well."

Despite being tantalized by the prospect of Sunday's Fury, Day resisted entering Too Late Now in the seven-furlong race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, which is an important stepping-stone to the 1 1/8 mile Labatt Woodbine Oaks.

"The Fury is a very tempting-looking situation," said Day. "But I don't think there's time, with a lightly seasoned filly, to go from the Fury to the Oaks.

"I think the best choice for her to have an Oaks chance would be to run somewhere around two turns. Maybe she's just a fast filly who doesn't want to go two turns."

Day, though, is banking otherwise. On Thursday, he shelled out $5,000 to make Too Late Now a supplementary nominee to the $500,000 Oaks.

"I normally wouldn't bet 5 cents, let alone $5,000," said Day. "I'm getting very excited about this filly."

Jones back from Barbados

Jockey Jono Jones is back in action at Woodbine, less than a month after reportedly packing his tack with plans to resume his career as a contract rider in his homeland of Barbados.

Jones, who was named on horses here opening weekend but booked off due to illness, did spend the last few weeks riding in Barbados.

"I had some weight problems I had to sort out," said Jones.

Wednesday action

Wednesday racing is being added to the schedule this week, with post time for the first of eight races set for 6:45 p.m.

This Wednesday also will mark the first 2003 meeting of the Toronto Thoroughbred Racing Club, beginning at 8 p.m. in the International Room on the second floor of the grandstand.