06/09/2003 12:00AM

'Brass' a stretch threat


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Versatile 4-year-old Brass in Pocket should be an off-the-pace threat as the 124-pound highweight in Wednesday's $128,875 Ballade Stakes at Woodbine.

The six-furlong sprint for Ontario-sired fillies and mares has drawn a strong field of six, including Mysterious Affair, who is nearing $1 million in earnings.

Brass in Pocket appeared to find her niche as a front-running router in 2002, when she won 5 of 8 starts while banking $299,155. She captured the Eternal Search Stakes in July, and capped her campaign with a victory in another 1 1/16-mile stakes for Ontario-sired runners, the Classy 'n Smart.

Brass in Pocket was dismissed at 8-1 in her season opener over a tiring track in the six-furlong Whimsical Stakes, in which she rallied very wide to win by a neck over Mysterious Affair.

Owner Frank DiGiulio thought the Whimsical wasn't an ideal spot for Brass in Pocket's first start of the year, but he said he and trainer Bob Tiller had no other options for her.

"She had limited opportunities going long because she's already run through her [allowance] conditions," DiGiulio pointed out. "The race set up well for her. She broke bad, but the speed horses killed each other off, and she came running."

DiGiulio said Brass in Pocket didn't have the smoothest of trips when third last time out in the 6 1/2-furlong Hendrie Handicap, which was won by a sharp El Prado Essence.

"She got stalled a bit going down the backside," DiGiulio said. "She might have been second [with a clear run], but she wasn't going to beat the winner."

Brass in Pocket has recorded two quick five-furlong works since the May 11 Hendrie, and David Clark retains the mount on her.

Mysterious Affair won the 2002 Ballade for owner-trainer Mort Hardy. She raced in a wide stalking position most recently in the Grade 3 Hendrie, and then flattened out in the stretch to end up fourth. Richard Dos Ramos rides after a one-race absence.

Completing the Ballade lineup are Roman Romance, Devastating, Spanish Decree, and Lightning Pace.

Devastating trailed in a four-horse field when she met accomplished males in her second start off the sidelines May 18 in the New Providence Stakes, yet didn't disgrace herself. She was beaten just 2 3/4 lengths by victorious Forever Grand, after looking like she had a big shot to win at the eighth pole.

Jim McAleney rides Devastating, who is trained by ex-rider Robert King Jr.