11/04/2004 1:00AM

Winter Garden looks for clean break this time


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Bob Tiller will be holding a strong hand in Saturday's $136,205 Ontario Fashion at Woodbine if he runs both Winter Garden and Brass in Pocket in the six-furlong handicap for fillies and mares.

Winter Garden, last year's Ontario Fashion winner and the runner-up for Canadian champion 3-year-old filly honors in 2003, has had another lucrative campaign this year, winning 3 of 5 starts.

After taking the Grade 3 Hendrie Handicap and the Sweet Briar Too Stakes in the spring, Winter Garden returned from a layoff to take the allowance prep for the Grade 3 Seaway Stakes in August. Normally a front-runner, she broke in the air in the Sept. 11 Seaway before rallying wide from seven lengths back to finish second to Brass in Pocket.

Tiller was amazed at how well Winter Garden fared in the seven-furlong Seaway after her awkward start.

"She took a step backwards in the gate when they broke," Tiller said. "She'd never been last trailing the field in her life. Brass had everything her own way on the lead after breaking from the outside, and away she went. It turned out beautiful for us."

Tiller pointed out that there are limited opportunities for the Kentucky-bred Winter Garden in Ontario, and said it has been a challenge getting her to her races in peak form.

"It's tough to keep a horse in training all year when they only run every two months," Tiller said. "We've had off-and-on little problems with her, but she seems to have handled everything well."

Brass in Pocket, a 2003 Sovereign Award finalist as champion older female, has also won two stakes this year and went over the $1 million mark in earnings.

Brass in Pocket has run in a pair of classified allowance routes since her Seaway triumph, finishing second in the first one and fifth in the second, which was the prep for the Maple Leaf Stakes.

"She's in good order," Tiller said. "That last race, at a mile and an eighth, was tough. She might have one more start after this, if she runs in this race, and she'll be bred next year."

Tiller also entered Brass in Pocket in Sunday's supporting feature, the $112,000 River Memories Stakes for fillies and mares, which is scheduled for a mile on the turf.

Mona Rose, most recently a troubled fifth in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes, heads the River Memories. She has captured two stakes at the meeting, including the Grade 3 Dance Smartly.