03/04/2002 12:00AM

Day of mixed emotions for Attards


ARCADIA, Calif. - Kevin Attard squinted at the herky-jerky images on his laptop screen and tried to make sense of what he saw. It was hopeless.

Streaming video - what a joke. Thank goodness, though, for Trevor Denman's crystal clear audio.

"He was getting pretty excited," said Attard. "And so was I."

With good reason. It's not every day you can lay claim to a piece of Santa Anita Handicap history. When Milwaukee Brew jumped out of the pack last Saturday to make a shambles of a weary field, he was putting more than just another feather in the caps of Bobby Frankel, Frank Stronach, and Kent Desormeaux. He was also warming hearts in cold Canada and chilly New York.

Long gone are the days when nearly every good horse went from cradle to pasture in the company of familiar faces. Now they bounce from sale to sale, barn to barn, commodities on the move, as the game becomes seamlessly international. It doesn't pay to get attached.

Still, it's never easy to watch a horse go on to great things without you. Just ask Ian Jory, Neil Boyce, or even Bobby Frankel. They trained Santa Anita Handicap winners Best Pal, Farma Way, and Ruhlmann before they became Santa Anita Handicap winners for someone else.

Frankel was running the 5-year-old Milwaukee Brew for only the second time last Saturday. That's about the same number of times Frankel and Stronach have been seen in public together. They practically needed an introduction.

"You know how often I talk to him?" Frankel said of Stronach. "In the paddock, if he's here."

Of course, Frankel only has two Stronach runners, and now he's basically down to one. Euchre, the other one, aggravated a quarter crack in the Santa Anita Handicap and finished 13th.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent, Tino Attard and his 26-year-old son Kevin comprise the main Canadian wing of the Stronach stable organization. If the name is familiar, don't be shocked. There are about as many Attards in the sport north of the border as there were Barreras from Cuba, or guys named Parke spilling out of Idaho. Tino Attard was the Canadian HBPA's trainer of the year in 1999. The filly Kirby's Song took him to the Breeders' Cup twice.

While Milwaukee Brew must now be considered a powerful cog in the Frankel machine, it must be noted that Tino and Kevin Attard were there at the beginning, and then again as recently as last December, when they said farewell to the big fellow and dispatched him from their Woodbine stable to find his fortune in California.

"Did you see him?" Tino shouted into the phone, as Milwaukee Brew sailed home four lengths clear of Western Pride. The father was home in Canada, tending to his large public stable, while Kevin was still at Aqueduct with the winter string, cursing his laptop.

"It was unbelievable," Kevin said Monday morning from Aqueduct. "It's nice to see the horse back to his old self."

He was talking about the Milwaukee Brew of summer 2000, when he won the Ohio Derby with a six-wide trip, then finished a close third to Dixie Union and Captain Steve in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. Before that, the colt was a 10-length maiden race winner at Gulfstream Park and scored easily in the Marine Stakes at Woodbine. He was the genuine article with a cool name, destined for bigger things. So of course the Attards would be losing him.

"We're in Canada, and he was obviously good enough to go for the big pots in the U.S.," Kevin said. "It's hard to ask a horse to be shipping back and forth all the time. That can really take a toll. It just seemed best that he be stabled in New York last year."

Last year was a bust, as Milwaukee Brew went 0 for 4 under Joe Orseno.

The best he could do was a second in the Baltimore Breeders' Cup Handicap. After finishing up the track in the Washington Park Handicap, he was sent home to Stronach's farm in Canada for some R&R with Kevin Attard. He had been missed.

"He's got a great personality," Attard said. "When he's in the shed row, you know who the boss is. His groom in Canada was Alfredo Ramos, and they really had a love for each other. He was always happy. Actually, he looked pretty happy in the Santa Anita winner's circle, too."

And why not. Milwaukee Brew is no dummy. The temperature at Santa Anita last weekend edged into the low 80's. In Toronto, it was in the 20's.

Fahrenheit, that is.

"He had breezed five-eighths up there, three of four times," Attard said. "He was ready to go. I guess Bobby put some more foundation under him and took his time, which was nice to see. When he left Canada, we thought he was better than when he was peaking at 3.

"It's sad to see a horse like that go," Attard added. "But it's also nice to be able to say that we were a part of him."