11/05/2002 12:00AM

Finally, Pollock gets a stakes win


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Byzantine and Red Sea, a pair of 6-year-olds with contrasting backgrounds, made the most of their final turf opportunities of the meeting here last Sunday.

Byzantine, bred in Ontario by her owners, Tony and Jennifer Monk, became a stakes winner in the $114,000 River Memories, a one-mile race for fillies and mares. She also became the first stakes winner for trainer Bruce Pollock, who has been in the racing business since 1969.

Red Sea, bred in England by Newgate Stud Company, was recording his third career stakes score in the $115,000 Labeeb, a one-mile race for 3-year-olds and upward. He is the latest in the long line of stakes winners for trainer Roger Attfield, who also owns the gelding in partnership with Bill Werner and Bill Graham.

While Red Sea had raced in England, Kentucky, California, and Florida before relocating to Woodbine, Byzantine has made 28 of her 31 career starts here. Her remaining starts came at Fair Grounds in the winter of 2000.

Byzantine become stakes placed when she finished third here in the Sept. 2 Halton, and Pollock is delighted she is now a stakes winner.

"She deserves it," he said. "She's run against some wonderful horses here, and she's been a good long-term competitor.

"The difficult thing about her is that the races where she fit the best wouldn't fill. She was always running in a race that wasn't your first choice.

"As a result she was running short and long, running against stakes winners in allowance races . . . you'd never be able to get into your perfect pattern."

Byzantine had run against the likes of Sweetest Thing, Free Vacation, and Diadella over the past two seasons, and the company in the River Memories was more to her liking.

"It's her time of year," Pollock said. "She likes the deeper surface."

Pollock said Byzantine could be making her next start at Churchill Downs. The Grade 3, $150,000 Cardinal Handicap, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares Nov. 23, is a possible target.

"It would be tough," Pollock said. "But she should get the deeper turf there in the fall. It's the perfect distance, and obviously she's good right now."

Red Sea, a Grade 3 stakes winner in England, wound up in Attfield's barn in the winter of 2001 and captured a division of the Connaught Cup here on May 26, 2001.

But Red Sea's owner, Prince Fahd Salman, died suddenly that summer and the horse - after racing for Prince Fahd's estate through the remainder of 2001 - was purchased privately by Attfield.

"Red Sea was having some problems," Attfield said. "He needed freshening up. I gave him some time off, and [gelded] him at the same time."

Red Sea did not resurface until Sept. 2, when he finished third in a classified allowance. But after Red Sea disappointed in the Chief Bearhart Stakes, Attfield took a calculated risk and dropped him in for a win at the $50,000 claiming level.

"I'm just delighted," Attfield said. "He's a real favorite; he's a nice horse to be around."

Red Sea is scheduled to head to Florida, with a Gulfstream campaign on his agenda.

Jones lights tote in turf stakes

Sunday's final two turf stakes of the meeting were also a shot in the arm for jockey Jono Jones, who rode both Byzantine ($34.80) and Red Sea ($42.80).

Jones, a top rider in his homeland of Barbados, relocated here in spring 2001 and won with his first mount here. He finished the meeting in a three-way tie for eighth place with 57 winners.

Heading into this week he had ridden 47 winners at the 2002 meet despite being sidelined for more than two months after suffering ligament damage to his left foot during a training mishap in June.

The River Memories and Labeeb were the first stakes wins for Jones since March 29, the third day of the meeting, when he rode Madame Roar to a front-running romp in the La Voyageuse.

Wild Whiskey returns from break

Woodstock Stakes winner Wild Whiskey returns from a six-month layoff in Thursday's feature, a six-furlong allowance for 3-year-olds and up.

Wild Whiskey served notice that he was a horse with talent when he won his maiden here in his November 2001 debut. He set sizzling fractions in that six-furlong maiden special weight event, and then coasted home to win by a length in 1:11.20.

Wild Whiskey resurfaced on March 31 in the six-furlong Achievement Handicap, recording quick splits again before finishing second behind reigning Canadian 2-year-old champion Rare Friends. He won the six-furlong Woodstock in a romp on April 20, earning a whopping 100 Beyer Speed Figure.

Wild Whiskey was sidelined with a bucked shin after his fade in the May 4 Queenston Stakes, and has worked encouragingly of late for trainer John Ross. James McKnight will ride him from the rail post.

Lining up outside Wild Whiskey will be Mortgage Man, Soaring Free, Adjalah, Sophie's Bold, Majestic Warlock, and First One Out.

Soaring Free set a suicidal pace before tiring badly last time out in the Perryville Stakes at Keeneland. He finished first or second in each of his four starts at this meet. He is trained by Mark Frostad.

- additional reporting by Ron Gierkink