08/31/2001 11:00PM

Extra furlong the unknown factor

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Rare Friends and Mulrainy head their respective divisions of Monday's

2-year-old yearling sales stakes at Woodbine, the $102,800 Simcoe for males and the $102,700 Muskoka for fillies.

Rare Friends, who cost $27,000, is unbeaten in two starts with earnings of $119,745. He dusted a good field of maidens when he debuted Aug. 6, and is coming off another front-running score in the six-furlong Vandal.

Trainer Bob Tiller believes the sloppy track in the Vandal worked against Rare Friends, who saw his lead shrink to three-quarters of a length at the wire.

"He got a little tired the last part," Tiller said, "but it was a tough track to lead all the way on. Speed doesn't carry when it gets sloppy here."

Tiller thinks Rare Friends's main obstacle in the Simcoe could be the seven-furlong distance.

"He's a hell of a good sprinter," Tiller said. "The big question will be stretching him out. He went from five to six furlongs, and now he has to go seven. It could be a tough chore."

Shaws Creek won his two starts heading into the Vandal, in which he was a closing second while earning his second consecutive Beyer Figure of 84.

Trainer John Ross felt the track wasn't to Shaws Creek's liking in the Vandal.

"I thought it was a good effort," Ross said, "but I don't think it was his favorite type of track - he'd won two in a row on a fast track.

"He had a little problem coming out of the gate. He broke on top, but then found himself being shuffled back to third or fourth because he wasn't grabbing hold of the track. Finally, he gained some momentum on the turn, and began to make a run."

Mulrainy, who should be odds-on in the seven-furlong Muskoka,was purchased privately for $30,000 by Wings of Erin Farm after she was bought back at the sale. She was second first time out in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special and got an 84 Beyer for her seven-length maiden triumph Aug. 4.

Tom O'Keefe said Mulrainy displayed early potential.

"She showed she had talent from the first time I breezed her," he said. "What I love about her is her whole attitude - she's a laid-back filly. I was surprised that she ran that fast when she broke her maiden. I thought she'd win, but I didn't think she'd devastate the field the way she did."

Inspired Kiss tries to rebound

O'Keefe also will send out Inspired Kiss in the $101,700 Algoma, the 1 1/16-mile stakes for fillies and mares.

Inspired Kiss, a 4-year-old who was purchased for $7,000 at the open yearling sale, is a multiple stakes winner of $343,266.

But after beginning her current campaign with a close fourth-place finish, the filly has been beaten a total of 30 lengths in two starts and has not raced since June 17.

"I think it stemmed back to last November," said O'Keefe. "She got really sick on me, with a blood infection. We had to rush her to Guelph [veterinary clinic]. She lost a ton of weight; she was there two weeks."

Inspired Kiss, whose 2000 campaign had been curtailed by a potential ligament problem, wintered in South Carolina.

"Her first race back was good," said O'Keefe, "but I think she took much out of herself, because she's such a game filly, and that's why she ran the two dull races.

"After that, I decided I'd better go back to square one. I gave her a couple of weeks off, then restarted her. She seems to be back to her old self."

If Inspired Kiss fails to fire, watch out for Pete's Fancy, a stakes-caliber mare who is stretching out for the first time this year but is proven at the distance.

Bad luck shadows Prince of Style

Prince of Style, who has had a series of troubled trips while finishing second in three of four starts this year under regular rider Slade Callaghan, looms the horse to beat in the $101,900 Elgin, the 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds and upward.

"There's no doubt he should have won more races," said Grant Pearce, who trains Prince of Style for Bill Diamant. "I'd like to say it was somebody's fault, but it wasn't. Every race, something has come up.

"I'd hate to think luck is that big a factor, but it is. This horse has proven it to me, more than anything."

Prince of Style, third in a tougher edition of the Elgin last year, closed out last season by becoming a stakes winner here in the 1 1/16-mile Sir Barton. He comes into Monday's race off a second-place finish at 1 1/16 miles here Aug. 5, in which he was blocked on the turn and beaten three-quarters of a length.

"I gave him a little bit of a break after his last race," said Pearce. "We've been looking at this race for a while, and he's doing great."

The spoiler could be Brite Adam, who has started three times since returning from a 19-month absence and who is working well for trainer Norm McKnight

- additional reporting by Bill Tallon