Wire Comes Just in Time for Too Late Now

(from Woodbine track report)
Come By Chance Stable's heavily favored Too Late Now made every pole a winning one, but just barely, in capturing Sunday's $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks at Woodbine.

With jockey Robert Landry aboard, Too Late Now gamely held a surging Seeking The Ring safe at the wire to win the premier event for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies by a long neck. Santerra, a 41-1 outsider, outnodded Brattothecore for third, just one and one-half length further back. The 1 1/8-mile classic was clocked in 1:53.05.

Too Late Now had stepped to the Oaks forefront by comfortably scoring from off the pace in the Selene Stakes May 19. Today, however, the bay filly was sent to the lead by Landry. After taking the field of 10 through a half-mile in 47.47 and six furlongs in 1:12.86, Landry asked for speed and Too Late Now quickly sprinted to a two-length lead on her pursuers turning for home.

But, as it turned out, the race had just begun. The undefeated filly was about to face her sternest challenge yet in her brief four-race career. Sam-Son Farm's Seeking The Ring, a full sister to 2000 Oaks winner Catch The Ring and the second choice at 7-2, started to cut into her margin with each closing stride. However, Too Late Now proved her mettle, refusing to give way in gutting out the victory.

For breeder and trainer Jim Day, it was a record fifth Oaks win. Day won four Oaks in the 1980's and early 90's with Classy 'N Smart (1984), Tilt My Halo (1988), Tiffany's Secret (1990) and the incomparable Dance Smartly (1991).

He turned the trick this time with a rags-to-riches filly, a daughter of Raj Waki, who doubles as Day's stable pony, out of Half Of Everything, an unraced mare Day purchased for $1,000. And it's a real family affair, as his 85-year-old mother Edna Arrow owns the filly, racing under the Come By Chance Stable banner.

Too Late Now debuted in early April, winning a five furlong maiden event by 4 1/2 lengths as a 17-1 shot. Two weeks later, the filly scored in a six-furlong allowance tilt. On May 1, Day made a supplemental payment of $5,000 to make her eligible to the Oaks, in retrospect the best $5,000 he's ever spent. Then came her big step up in the mile and one-sixteenth Selene Stakes, her first stakes attempt and her first crack at a distance of ground.

For Landry, it was his third Oaks win after taking the 1997 renewal with Capdiva (ironically the last filly to go wire-to-wire) and the 2000 edition with Catch The Ring. Earlier on Sunday, the 40-year-old rider was presented with the Avelino Gomez Award for his accomplishments and contributions to the sport. He thus followed in the footsteps of Richard Dos Ramos, who last year received the Avelino Gomez Award several hours before winning the Labatt Woodbine Oaks aboard Ginger Gold.

"It's been an absolutely fabulous day," said Landry. "I have my family and friends here and to be able to win on this filly is great. She's a perfect four-for-four now, she's an exceptional filly and I'm just glad to be part of it."

Landry said things didn't go as planned. "I was on the lead and I really didn't want to be there.

Too Late Now became the first filly since Classy 'N Smart in 1984 to win the Oaks after not racing as a 2-year-old. She also followed in Dance Smartly's legendary hoofprints by pulling off a Selene Stakes-Oaks double. Both of those fillies, of course, were also trained by Day.

Longshot Buffalo Jump broke down on the turn and did not make the course.

The Oaks field was reduced to 10 with the morning scratch of Deputy Cures Blues, who came down with a mucous infection.

For the win, Too Late Now picked up a purse of $300,000 to push her bankroll to a remarkable $541,110 in her brief career. As the prohibitive 3-5 choice, Too Late Now paid $3.30, $2.40, $2.10, combining with Seeking The Ring ($3.80, $2.70) for a $9.80 (5-6) exacta. Santerra ($8.30) completed a $124.40 trifecta.

(Chart, Equibase)