Timeless Times seemed destined to become a novelty the day his knee chipped in England, which left him on the brink of a racing first and produced the longest layoff of his career.

That was last month. Today, on a renovated joint in a foreign land, Timeless Times will have one more chance to detach himself from every young thoroughbred who has worn a saddle. A victory in the $300,000 Laurel Futurity would be his 17th this season, sufficient to break the 2-year-old record he shares with The Bard, a 19th-century Englander, and Provideo, a stablemate he never knew.

Since he trained Provideo to 16 victories in 1984, William O'Gorman has sought another horse who could do one better. After a tenuous introduction, Timeless Times was so appointed.

The chestnut colt didn't make his first start until April 11, and that was bound by bandage and prayer. Two days earlier, he had ejected an exercise rider and fled; when he was apprehended after falling on pavement, the colt had a gouge above his left hind hoof.

"It was a hole you could put your thumb in," O'Gorman said yesterday. It was not too big to prevent a victory 48 hours later.

Timeless Times proceeded to run 20 races in less than five months, three times starting on back-to-back days. "Next year, if we can, I'll identify a place where we can win two in an afternoon," O'Gorman said.

His colt has run at 18 tracks -- finishing second or third the four times he hasn't won -- and has sampled every kind of turf. He has become a folk hero of the English flats.

"We specifically set out to try to do this," O'Gorman said of Timeless Times's noble quest. "After this horse had won a couple of races, I told the owner, 'I think he'd be a horse to give it a try with.' I didn't think he was a horse that would win a Group 3 {stakes race}, and we had at least two {2-year-olds} better than him. This was a conscious decision."

O'Gorman said he's become no more reluctant to coddle his stock in 21 years of training, but added, "I think the perception that horses have gotten less tough is untrue," a point Timeless Times endorsed until knee chips materialized after his last race, Sept. 5. Because the fragments weren't "displaced," O'Gorman said, the surgery was done arthroscopically and rehabilitation expedited.

That Timeless Times has run against his country's lesser-knowns is reflected in his earnings, $93,551. He also has never raced the Futurity distance of 1 1/16 miles, but assistant trainer Mick Coughlan noted that the 7 1/2-furlong race at Beverley posed an uphill finish.

Timeless Times was given 9-2 odds in today's race, second-lowest among 13 entered.

Despite his travails, Timeless Times looked anything but shopworn as he and the other Europeans here for the International Turf Festival cleared quarantine and strode the Laurel course for the first time.

"When the vet came, he was shocked," Coughlan said. "He thought {Timeless Times} would be real skinny, like a little whippet."

Autumn greeted the backstretch with windswept fury, and Timeless Times pranced through it as if exhilarated, his burnished body broad and gleaming. He practiced three grassy furlongs in 38 3/5 seconds under Emma O'Gorman, the trainer's daughter, for what likely will be his last race this year.

"He still has all the enthusiasm for racing," O'Gorman said. "He has tremendous professionalism, and he's a battler. But everything has its limits. I think it would be hard on him to take him home after all this traveling and ask for more. He's become a national star; he's even been the subject of radio coverage on non-racing programs. This is a bit of a fairy story even to have gotten this far."