10/15/2003 11:00PM

With much less fanfare, Byrne is back in BC

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - It has been nearly six years since Pat Byrne got on an airplane and flew to California for the Breeders' Cup. To this day, the afternoon of Nov. 8, 1997, remains perhaps the greatest day in Byrne's 18-year training career. He won the Juvenile Fillies with Countess Diana, then sent out Favorite Trick to win the Juvenile, a race that helped the colt clinch Horse of the Year honors.

This year, Byrne is headed back to California amid considerably less fanfare. He is taking Ethan Man to the BC Sprint, a race that the 4-year-old gelding will try to upset following a recent second-place finish in the Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland.

"Ethan Man is doing fine," said Byrne. "We're going to work him Saturday and ship him to California Thursday."

After training most of his stable Thursday morning at Churchill Downs, Byrne was en route to Keeneland to meet a filly he hopes will become his newest star: Ocean Silk, who arrived overnight in Cincinnati from London by way of New York. Ocean Silk, owned by Robert Sangster, is a graded-caliber 3-year-old who will start as the probable favorite Sunday in the $150,000 Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes at Keeneland.

"I'm going to get a good look at her this morning," said Byrne. "John Gosden had her in England, and Mr. Sangster wanted to see what she could do in the U.S. If everything works the way we hope, she'll run big off the plane Sunday, then we'll probably back off her a little bit and start looking toward the major races at Gulfstream next winter."

Ocean Silk, a Kentucky-bred by Dynaformer, has won two of eight starts, with probably her best effort resulting in a runner-up finish behind the British superstar Islington in the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks in August.

Pat Day is scheduled to ride Ocean Silk in the Dowager, a 1 1/2-mile turf race for fillies and mares. Racing officials are expecting about 10 starters, with Snow Dance a possibility to run. Other probables include Alternate, Beyond the Waves, and Spice Island.

Bejarano's big decision

Jockey Rafael Bejarano and his agent, Steve Elzey, face a dilemma several weeks from now. Should Bejarano ride through the winter at Turfway Park, where he figures to dominate, or should he try to enhance his national profile by trying Gulfstream, Fair Grounds, or Oaklawn?

"We'll make that decision when we have to," said Elzey. "People are giving Rafael all kinds of advice. I think it might be better to stay at Turfway where he could win a lot of races and get more experience, but that's just me talking. We'll see."

Wildcats and horses on Saturday

Saturday attendance at Keeneland figures to be at least a few thousand more than normal. It's a "Bluegrass doubleheader" day, which will allow local sports fans to attend Keeneland before they head to nearby Commonwealth Stadium in time for a Kentucky-Ohio University football game, which kicks off at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Next Saturday, local fans will have to make a choice between football and racing. Kentucky plays hosts to Mississippi State with a 12:30 p.m. kickoff. Keeneland will begin an abbreviated four-race card also at 12:30, before the Breeders' Cup simulcasts start at 2:15.

Next Saturday is closing day of the 17-day meet. The $150,000 Fayette Stakes, with Tenpins as a huge favorite, is the live feature.

* Brice Blanc will be away Sunday to ride at Woodbine in Canada. Blanc, the French native who moved to Kentucky from Southern California a year ago, will ride Bowman Mill in the $1.5 million Canadian International and Tigertail in the $750,000 E.P. Taylor.