06/27/2003 11:00PM

Too Late Now spots weight


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Too Late Now and Seeking the Ring, the one-two finishers in the June 8 Labatt Woodbine Oaks, will renew their rivalry at Fort Erie on Tuesday in the $250,000 Labatt Bison City.

The Bison City, the second leg of the Triple Tiara for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, drew a field of six and headlines a Canada Day card that also includes the Centre Stage Anne and Parnitha stakes.

A $350,000 bonus would go to a filly that can sweep the Triple Tiara, which concludes with the Wonder Where at 1 1/4 miles on turf at Woodbine Aug. 4.

Too Late Now and Seeking the Ring were separated by a diminishing neck at the conclusion of the Woodbine Oaks and, besides the change in locale, this rematch features some interesting variables.

One is the Bison City's 1 1/16-mile distance, as opposed to the 1 1/8 miles of the Oaks. Then there is the fact the Bison City is run under allowance conditions, whereas the Oaks was contested at scale weights.

Under the conditions of the Bison City, Too Late Now will pick up two pounds and carry high weight of 123, while Seeking the Ring drops seven pounds and will be one of the 114-pound lightweights.

Despite the shorter distance, those who view weight as a decisive handicapping factor should have no doubt that Seeking the Ring will turn the tables.

But those with a more flexible approach may believe that Too Late Now, who hasn't put a wrong foot forward in four career starts, all at Woodbine this year, will be able to rise to the challenge.

Jim Day, who bred Too Late Now and trains her for the Come By Chance Stable of his mother, Edna Arrow, always has been very impressed with the way the filly trained and believed she was something special despite her modest pedigree.

Now Day's faith has been confirmed, as Too Late Now has progressed from winning a five-furlong maiden special weight race to the 1 1/8-mile Oaks in just a little more than two months, with an important interim stop in the Grade 1, 1 1/16-mile Selene.

"She had a gentle week after the Oaks," Day said. "She hasn't trained real hard; she's pretty fit at this point. So much has come up so quickly in her life; I don't want to overcook her in the morning."

Day, however, was very pleased with Too Late Now's interim prep for the Bison City, as she breezed five furlongs at Woodbine last Wednesday in 1:00.80.

"I liked her breeze before this race better than her breeze before the Oaks," Day said. "She finished strong, and galloped out strong. Before the Oaks, she was too aggressive for my liking. She's settled a bit since then."

Robert Landry retains the mount on Too Late Now, who led throughout the Oaks after employing a stalking style in her first three starts.

Seeking the Ring, owned by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Mark Frostad, also was making her fourth career start in the Oaks and improved on her first try against Too Late Now, as she was beaten 5 3/4 lengths in the Selene.

"This is a little shorter [than the Oaks], and I don't think that helps," Frostad said. "But she carries a lot less weight, and the longer stretch will be to her advantage."

Seeking the Ring will have a new rider here in Slade Callaghan, who takes over from Todd Kabel.

The supporting cast for the Bison City includes Santerra and Brattothecore, the three-four finishers in the Oaks, plus longshots Trust Her and Miss Filibuster.

Santerra, winner of Woodbine's seven-furlong Muskoka and 1 1/16-mile South Ocean last year, has yet to win in three 2003 outings but was beaten just 1 3/4 lengths in the Oaks.

"She came out of the race good, so we'll try them again," said Mike Mattine, who trains Santerra for owner-breeder Ted Burnett.

Brattothecore, winner of Woodbine's 1 1/16-mile Ontario Lassie at 2, was racing around two turns for the first time this year in the Oaks and was beaten a neck for third.

"She wasn't far off, so we're going to give them another try," said John Ross, who trains Brattothecore.