05/27/2004 12:00AM

Trip worthwhile for Tic Tac Man

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Tic Tac Man may have taken the long way to Woodbine, but it took only a short time for him to make his mark.

A 4-year-colt owned by Bill Schettine and trained here by Josie Carroll, Tic Tac Man was bred in Australia, began his career in Southern California, and was a romping winner in his local debut on Wednesday night.

Tic Tac Man's 8 1/4-length victory, which earned him a Beyer Speed Figure of 88, came in a seven-furlong maiden optional claiming race for a purse of $35,900.

"I thought he'd run a very big race," said Carroll, who had planned to enter Tic Tac Man in mid-May in a straight maiden special race with a purse of $58,800.

"He gave a couple of coughs; we scoped him, and he was full of mucus," said Carroll. "Then he got good, and this race was there. I didn't want to wait any longer."

Tic Tac Man was one of six horses purchased by Schettine at yearling sales in Australia, and he was left there for a year before being shipped to California.

The West Coast stopover was designed to give the horse a chance to acclimatize, and Tic Tac Toe raced twice last spring and twice this spring, with his best effort a near-miss in a main track sprint at Santa Anita this March 24.

"Last year, he technically was a 2-year-old, running against 3-year-olds," said Carroll. Tic Tac Man was born in September, late in the year for a Thoroughbred. "Now, he's starting to catch up."

Carroll is hoping there are other Tic Tac Mans in line. Schettine's other Australian-breds are currently in Florida, but some could ship here.

La Grande Mamma 'magnificent'

Trainer Steve Owens already has hit paydirt with La Grande Mamma, claiming the filly for $25,000 from her winning debut last July 4 and sending her back to win the $82,425 winner's share of the Nandi here three weeks later.

On Saturday, Owens will be looking to knock down another stakes for Ontario-sired fillies with La Grande Mamma when she she runs in the seven-furlong Lady Angela, which is worth $133,250.

"She's good to go," said Owens, who trains La Grande Mamma for Don Lebowitz, whose nom du course is Great Plyer. "She looks magnificent."

La Grande Mamma, who wintered with Owens in Ocala, returned to Woodbine in mid-March and made her seasonal bow here April 30.

The spot that Owens selected was rather unconventional as La Grande Mamma faced some older rivals in a third-level optional claiming race for fillies and mares, 3 years old and up.

And while La Grande Mamma finished second as the odds-on choice in that five-furlong dash, the race served its purpose.

"I used the first race to get a race into her, for the stakes," said Owens. "[The Lady Angela] is the start of her season."

La Grande Mamma had made two starts after the Nandi last year, finishing second in the seven-furlong Muskoka and a distant fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Mazarine.

Despite La Grande Mamma's Canadian-bred status, Owens avoided the temptation of taking her down the path to the 1 1/8-mile Labatt Woodbine Oaks, restricted to Canadian-breds.

"I've got an Ontario-sired program set up for her," said Owens. "I'll try to keep her one turn, in sprints and maybe a mile on turf."

Moment of Peace off Oaks trail

Owens did think he might have an Oaks horse in Moment of Peace, whom he supplemented this spring at a cost of $5,000.

Moment of Peace, victorious in her only start, at 6 1/2 furlongs, at age 2, has raced twice this spring in first-level allowances, finishing fourth at seven furlongs and a distant third at 1 1/16 miles."She was training good and the Oaks didn't look all that tough at the time we supplemented her," said Owens, who trains the homebred Moment of Peace for the Empress Stable of his wife, Beverley, and his mother-in-law, Mildred Lewis.

"I was hoping she would move up, but she's not on the Oaks trail any more."

Wando works fast

Wando, Canada's reigning horse of the year, breezed five furlongs in 59.80 seconds under regular rider Patrick Husbands on the fast main track Thursday.

"He went a little quicker than I was looking for, but he did it very easily," said Mike Keogh, who trains Wando for owner-breeder Gustav Schickedanz.

Keogh said Wando would be nominated to the Grade 2, $300,000 King Edward Breeders' Cup, a 1 1/8-mile turf race here June 19, but was noncommittal about whether the colt would definitely run in the race.

Inish Glora breezes

Inish Glora, the Sovereign Award-winning female turf horse of 2003, breezed five furlongs in 1:01 under exercise rider Gaye Lynch-Dybenko.

Mac Benson, who trains the 6-year-old Inish Glora for Robert Costigan, said she is on target to run in next Saturday's Grade 3, $250,000 Nassau, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

Niigon readies for Plate Trial

Niigon, who ran third here in last year's Grade 2 Grey over 1 1/16 miles and won his maiden very impressively at that same distance here May 8, worked six furlongs in 1:12.60 under his regular rider, Robert Landry.

"He went awesome," said Landry. "He finished up well. I was really happy with him."

Niigon, owned by Chiefswood Stable and trained by Eric Coatrieux, will make his next start in the $150,000 Plate Trial, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds here on June 6.