08/21/2002 12:00AM

Maidens look for break


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Flaming Sky, a surprising second in the 2001 Breeders' Stakes, could win his maiden in Friday's finale at Woodbine.

The 1 1/16-mile turf race is a split of a maiden special weight race for 3- and 4-year-olds. Eight races were carded Friday, instead of the usual 10, mainly because of a virus that has hit Woodbine's horse population hard this month.

Flaming Sky barely held second as the longest shot on the board last August in the 1 1/2-mile Breeders', finishing 7 1/2 lengths behind favored Sweetest Thing, who was voted the Sovereign Award for champion turf female at year's end.

Flaming Sky was shelved for the remainder of the year after the Breeders', and never fired when he returned to action, in a seven-furlong maiden dash July 20. Trainer Ron Burke ran him back at 1 1/2 miles most recently, and watched him finish a well-beaten fifth after running rankly in the early going.

Burke is optimistic that a better effort is forthcoming from Flaming Sky. "I expect him to run a good race this week," said Burke. Robert Landry will ride.

The eighth-race field is littered with longtime maidens, including His Regency, who is coming off close fourth-place finishes at a mile and seven furlongs.

Gallant and Brave and Granbury are both 4-year-olds with at least 13 starts to their credit, while Exiting Venture has seen action 12 times, but just twice on the grass.

With a Star heads the other split, which is the first half of the late double. Trained by Mac Benson, With a Star has been second or third in each of his last four outings, and was favored on three of those occasions.

With a Star was recently second going 1 1/2 miles, after making a three-wide bid for the lead on the far turn and then hanging in the stretch. Na Somsanith retains the mount.

Perhaps the most exciting prospect on the card is Brave Destiny, a daughter of Quiet American, who will make her first start in the fourth race, a seven-furlong maiden special for 2-year-old fillies.

Kentucky-bred Brave Destiny was a $400,000 yearling purchase by Sam-Son Farm and trainer Mark Frostad, who campaigns her stakes-winning half-brother Strut the Stage. She is also a half-sister to Sacred Song, a Group 3 winner in England, and her dam, Ontario Colleen winner Ruby Ranson, is a half-sister to two-time Canadian Horse of the Year Chief Bearhart.