10/25/2001 11:00PM

Coronation player Rare Friends a big bargain buy

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Finding a future stakes winner at a yearling sale is tough enough, but picking one up for only $27,000 is extremely rare.

Rare Friends, a gelding from the first crop of Strub Stakes winner Helmsman, is undefeated in four starts heading into Sunday's $250,000 Coronation Futurity, the most important race for Canadian-bred juveniles in the country.

The medium-sized chestnut reeled off wins in the Vandal, Simcoe, and Swynford stakes after his maiden score for owners Frank DiGiulio Jr. and Bob Tiller. Tiller also trains Rare Friends.

A victory by Rare Friends in the nine-furlong Coronation (the gelding has not raced farther than seven furlongs) would ensure him championship honors at the Sovereign Awards in December.

Tiller picked out Rare Friends at last September's Canadian Breeders' select sale and asked DiGiulio if he wanted to purchase half the horse.

"He had everything that I learned about buying horses," Tiller said. "He was a Gord Huntley-type of horse." (Trainer Huntley was well known for his success with 2-year-olds.) "He had good bone, good conformation, and a great walk. He was May 29 foal and he looked like he was just going to rise up."

The gelding was bred by Gardiner Farms, which purchased his dam, Legion Etrangere, for $11,000, in foal to Helmsman at the 1998 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.

Legion Etrangere, a Florida-bred, never raced and is a daughter of the accomplished speed sire Carson City.

The mare's fourth dam, Flower Bowl, produced great ones like His Majesty, Graustark and champion Bowl of Flowers, so Rare Friends certainly has the breeding to handle longer distances.

Legion Etrangere has produced one other foal to race - the Japanese winner Vukefalos - and has a yearling filly by Bold Executive which was retained by Gardiner. The mare was barren for 2001 but is in foal to Bold Executive.

Sales notes

Sam-Son and Winsong Farms are among the notable Canadian consignors at the upcoming Keeneland November sale.

Sam-Son is offering, through Anderson Farms as agent, Breeders' Stakes winner Hangin On A Star, the dam of champion Comet Shine and stakes winner Misty Mission, in foal to the late Unbridled; Dancing With Wings, in foal to Smart Strike and stakes placed Heaven on Earth in foal to Thunder Gulch.

Winsong, owned by Jim and Alice Sapara, is dispersing all its breeding stock including stakes placed Scattered Dreams. Stakes winner Ahead by a Century, a daughter of Slew City Slew owned by Frank DiGiulio Jr., is also entered in the sale as a racing or broodmare prospect.

Tiller and trainers Laurie Silvera, John Charalambous, Tony Mattine and Dave Cotey were among several buyers at the recent Fasig-Tipton fall yearling sale.