09/10/2003 11:00PM

Two top fillies to go in either Oaks or derby

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The Grade 2, $250,000 British Columbia Derby is usually the most important race in the province, but the Grade 3 British Columbia Breeders' Cup Oaks will take on national significance if Too Late Now, Raylene, and Dancewithavixen all start. The only problem is that the derby and Oaks are both next weekend and the trainers of Too Late Now and Dancewithavixen aren't sure in which race their horses will run.

Earlier this year, Too Late Now looked like a lock for the Sovereign Award as the top 3-year-old filly in Canada. Trained by James Day, She won both the Grade 1 Selene and the $500,000 Canadian Oaks at Woodbin, and usually that's enough to earn the trophy. She has tailed off in her last three starts, however. Following a hard-fought win in the Oaks, Too Late Now finished third in the Bison City at Fort Erie and then, after a short layoff, she ran up the track in her next two starts.

But there are good reasons to throw out those races. Too Late Now showed good speed before caving in to finish 10th in the Ontario Colleen Stakes, but that was her first try on grass. When she came back a week later on Aug. 31 she was bumped at the start in the seven-furlong Seaway Stakes.

"I don't think she handled the heat very well either," said Day. "It's been pretty hot back here and she just hasn't done well since the spring. She seems to be back to her old self since the weather has cooled off and I would really like to give her a chance out there."

Day is familiar with the Hastings track. He saddled Imperial Choice to win the 1985 B.C Derby and Regal Intention to win the race again in 1988.

As for whether Too Late Now will run in the Oaks or the derby, he said, "I'll wait to see which race is easier and then decide."

Tom Longstaff, the owner and trainer of Dancewithavixen, is also going to wait before making his decision, but he's leaning toward the Oaks.

"It would be nice to win the Sovereign Award, and if she could beat Too Late Now she would have to be given serious consideration," he said. "I know the voting is usually weighted heavily in favor of horses from Woodbine, but Dancewithavixen is a pretty special filly."

Dancewithavixen carried 126 pounds while winning the Free Vacation Stakes on Sept. 1. It was her seventh win from nine starts this year and her fifth in a row. She would certainly get a good number of Sovereign Award votes from British Columbia if the ballots were filled out now.

Raylene has dominated the 3-year-old fillies in Alberta and is nominated to the Oaks but not the derby. She beat Taiaslew in the Canadian Derby at Northlands Park on Aug. 23, and a win over Dancewithavixen and Too Late Now would likely give her the Sovereign.

One Only Knows, who is trained by Robert Tiller and has won all four of her races going a middle distance at Woodbine, has also been nominated to the Oaks.

"I'm very interested in coming," said Tiller. "I'm going to work her and if it doesn't look too tough we'll probably come."

Krasner out with injury

Sam Krasner injured his shoulder last weekend and won't be able to ride Proud Son, one of the favorites, in Sunday's Jack Diamond Futurity.

"He's seeing his physiotherapist [Thursday] and we'll know more about where he stands regarding the rest of the meet," said his agent, Mike Heads. "I don't even want to think about the horses he'll have to give up if he's not able to ride."

Heads was referring to Roscoe Pito in the B.C. Derby, Elana d'Amour for the Ballerina, and, of course, Proud Son.

Healthy increases at sale

Dixie Jacobson, president of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society, B.C. Division, was ecstatic about the results from the CTHS sale, which was held on Tuesday.

The sale's gross was up by 36 percent, $1,208,400 compared with $888,800 in 2002, and the average was $10,417 as compared with $7,944 last year.

"There was a lot of optimism fueled by the possibility of getting slot machines at Hastings," she said. "Just think what will happen when we finally get them."