06/12/2002 11:00PM

Yet another rider for Bravely


ETOBICOKE, Ont. - Bravely will head into next Sunday's $1 million Queen's Plate as a non-winner of two races, coming off a seventh-place finish in the Plate Trial.

But Catherine Day-Phillips, who trains Bravely and campaigns the gelding under her nom-de-course Kingfield Farm, believes her runner deserves a shot at the 1 1/4-mile showpiece June 23.

"I was disappointed with the Trial," said Day-Phillips. "I don't think he ran his race, but there were enough reasons he didn't run his best to carry on again.

"I kind of blame myself. I probably made a few 'trainerly' errors."

Bravely had breezed five furlongs in 1:02.80 eight days before the Trial, which came three weeks after he won his maiden at 1 1/16 miles.

"I don't think he did enough," said Day-Phillips. "I was sort of trying to err on the cautious side, and train him a little lighter."

But the Trial certainly wasn't the first time the pieces of the Bravely puzzle had not fallen into place.

"I'd always really liked him," said Day-Phillips. "When [jockey] Mickey Walls started breezing him, before his first race last year, I said 'I'd like you to stay with him.' I wanted to have one rider help me train him and develop him."

Walls rode Bravely in his first start, but that turned out to be the only time he did. Jono Jones was breezing Bravely and scheduled to take over, but never actually took him to the post for a race, partly because he was ill when Bravely made his second start and suspended when he made his fourth and final start of last year in the Kingarvie.

Gerry Olguin rode Bravely in his second and third starts, and Patrick Husbands, whom Day-Phillips said, "had never sat on him until the day of the race," rode Bravely to a second-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Kingarvie.

Day-Phillips hoped the game of musical riders would end this spring when she hired Jake Barton, who rode Bravely in his first three starts of the year, including his maiden victory.

"I was having some trouble with the horse. He was getting cheeky, and I didn't want his naughty little habits to become big habits," said Day-Phillips. "When Jake got on him, he loved him from the beginning. His problems were quickly corrected."

But Barton also was the regular partner of Shaws Creek, whom he rode to victory in the seven-furlong Queenston. And when both Shaws Creek and Bravely were entered in the Trial, Barton chose to ride Shaws Creek, who then won the Trial.

Jim McKnight picked up the mount on Bravely, but Constant Montpellier is slated to ride him in the Queen's Plate. If so, Montpellier would be Bravely's sixth rider in nine starts.

Montpellier was aboard Thursday morning, when Bravely worked three furlongs from the gate in 36.20 seconds.

"That was the first time Con's been on him, and they seemed to get along well," said Day-Phillips. "He said a mile and a quarter will be no problem for this horse. He'll run all day.

"He breezed well, and galloped out very strong. It was nice to see."

Day-Phillips is planning a more serious effort on Monday, with Bravely scheduled to work five furlongs in company and gallop out seven furlongs.

"He does everything so easily," she said. "You have to make sure he does enough, but not too much."

Numerous Times likely Nearctic fave

Olympian breezed a sharp five furlongs in 1:00 under jockey Todd Kabel on the training track here Thursday, and is scheduled to run in the Nearctic Handicap, the supporting feature on Queen's Plate Day.

The Nearctic, a six-furlong turf race, is a Canadian Grade 2 with a purse of $250,000.

Olympian, trained by John Cardella, will carry 113 pounds for the handicap, on the list released Thursday by Chris Evans, Woodbine's racing secretary and director of racing.

Mr. Epperson, who won the Nearctic last year for trainer Scott Fairlie, will carry 117 pounds, and will be looking to repeat as the winner.

But the locally-based runner in the field who likely will attract the most attention is Numerous Times, last year's Atto Mile winner and Canada's champion turf horse, who suffered the first defeat of his career in his 2002 bow, in a June 1 prep for the Nearctic.

"He'll be ready this time," said Sid Attard, trainer of Numerous Times, who gets in with 118 pounds.

Mysterious Affair wins Ballade

Mysterious Affair won the Ballade Stakes for the second straight year here Wednesday, but things didn't go smoothly for her in the six-furlong dash for Ontario-sired fillies and mares.

Mysterious Affair, who broke from the inside post under Richard Dos Ramos, was outrun for the early lead by Whistling Maid, who got the opening quarter in 22.08.

Dos Ramos angled Mysterious Affair outside on the turn, and eventually overhauled Whistling Maid nearing the sixteenth pole, as she closed in unison with Ruby Park.

Mysterious Affair edged away in deep stretch to win by a length in a time of 1:11.16. Ruby Park edged Moonlight Affair by a half-length for second in the five-horse field.

Mort Hardy, Mysterious Affair's owner and trainer, said he had a few anxious moments watching the race.

"I saw [Dos Ramos] getting into her at the half-mile pole," Hardy said. "Normally, he doesn't have to do that. I was a little nervous, but when I saw her get to the outside, I thought we'd have a real good shot."

Mysterious Affair paid $3.70, and earned $76,275 of the $127,125 purse.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink