08/18/2003 11:00PM

After close call, Twisted Wit gets last laugh


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Bob Tiller certainly couldn't find any humor in the situation as he watched Twisted Wit thrash about in a tangle underneath the starting gate here last Thursday morning.

But Tiller was able to breathe a sigh of relief Sunday after watching Twisted Wit, a 2-year-old son of Distorted Humor whom he trains for Rolph Davis, bounce back to become a stakes winner in the $163,350 Vandal.

"If anybody had seen him under the gate, knocking his head against the side with his leg over it, you'd be worried about the horse being alive, let alone run in that race," said Tiller, looking back on Twisted Wit's misadventure.

After consulting with veterinarians, Tiller entered Twisted Wit in the Vandal later that Thursday morning. And, after monitoring the gelding in the hours leading up to the race, he decided to proceed as scheduled.

"It was a tough call after that incident, just three days later," Tiller said. "But, nothing indicated he couldn't run."

In his debut, Twisted Wit already had indicated that he could run: He rallied from off the pace to prevail by 4 1/4 lengths in a difficult five-furlong maiden special.

Then, in his final tune-up for the six-furlong Vandal, Twisted Wit outworked multiple-stakes-winning 4-year-old Forever Grand here on Aug. 9, drilling five furlongs in a bullet 59.20 seconds while his stablemate finished in 59.60.

"I was very pleased with the way he came home," Tiller said of Twisted Wit. "That was testing time for him; he needed a good workout."

With his first stakes score now under his belt, Twisted Wit will be looking for more in the Simcoe, the seven-furlong race for 2-year-old colts and geldings that is one of six $125,000 stakes here Sept. 1 for graduates of local yearling sales.

Twisted Wit, purchased for $50,000 by Tiller at the selected portion of the Fasig-Tipton sale, wound up as the property of Davis, who has been a longtime client of the trainer as a member of The Very Dry Stable and has campaigned several cheaper runners on his own account.

"He's a horse with a lot of talent, but he does have some antics to get over," said Tiller, noting that Twisted Wit had been less than perfect in the paddock before the Vandal and would be headed for more schooling sessions there and at the gate.

"I don't think you've seen the best of him yet."

Barn has one - maybe two - for Kenora

Forever Grand also is slated to see action on yearling sales stakes, in either the six-furlong Kenora or the 1 1/16-mile Elgin.

In the meantime, Forever Grand could be entered in Saturday's $125,000 Shepperton, a 6 1/2-furlong race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward.

Owned by Tiller in partnership with Frank DiGiulio, Forever Grand was a $50,000 purchase at the open yearling sale. He has won three stakes, including last year's Elgin, and earned $527,114.

Tiller and DiGiulio have another Kenora candidate in Rare Friends, who was bought for $27,000 at the select yearling sale.

A 4-year-old gelding, Rare Friends was a Canadian champion 2-year-old and is heading into the Kenora as a seven-time stakes winner of $656,914.

Rare Friends finished second in last year's Kenora, beaten a head by Mulligan the Great, whom he is scheduled to face again this season.

Brass in Pocket, the Tiller outfit's leading contributor this year with three stakes wins and earnings of $280,800, missed a chance to add to that total when last Friday's prep for the Seaway Stakes was lost due to the blackout.

A homebred 4-year-old filly owned by DiGiulio, Brass in Pocket will proceed directly to the $125,000 Seaway, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares here Aug. 31.

Tiller has a second Seaway possibility in Winter Garden, a Kentucky-bred 3-year-old filly who won the Star Shoot for DiGiulio here this April.

Queen of Queens drops to allowance

Queen of Queens, who is coming off an eighth-place finish in the Wonder Where Stakes here Aug. 4, is the filly to beat as she moves to the entry-level allowance ranks for Thursday's $69,900 headliner.

The 1 1/16-mile turf race attracted a field of 13, plus one main-track-only entrant, and goes as the 10th and final race on the program.

Queen of Queens, a 3-year-old owned and bred by Bill Graham and trained by Michael Doyle, won her maiden over 1 1/8 miles on turf in her start prior to the Wonder Where.

Handicapping Challenge this weekend

The entry box remains open for Woodbine's annual Thoroughbred Handicapping Challenge, which will held here Saturday and Sunday.

The entry fee is $250, and players in the contest, which will be limited to 225 entries, will make hypothetical $2 win bets on 10 races of their choice each day. Woodbine, Fort Erie, and Saratoga will be the tracks used.

All entry fees will be distributed to the winners. If a full field is entered, first prize would be $23,062, and another $28,187 would be available for the next nine finishers.

After the first day of the contest, the top three in the standings will get $5,000 in prize money, with $3,000 to the leader, $1,500 for second, and $500 for third.

The top four finishers in the overall contest also will earn a trip to Las Vegas and a spot in the 2003 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship.

As of Tuesday morning, 165 contestants had registered.