Updated on 09/16/2011 7:06AM

If it's sprint stakes, count Rare Friends in


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The 1 1/4 miles of the $1 million Queen's Plate may turn out to be beyond the range of Rare Friends.

But in the meantime the road to the Plate is paved with riches, and Rare Friends already has picked up a $98,820 appetizer after handily capturing the six-furlong Achievement Handicap last Sunday at Woodbine.

The Achievement was the fourth sprint stakes score for Rare Friends, who was Canada's champion 2-year-old male last year for his trainer, Bob Tiller.

"When they make you the champion you want to go out and prove you are the champion," said Tiller, who also owns Rare Friends in partnership with Frank DiGiulio.

Tiller had feared Rare Friends might not make the Achievement after the horse missed some training because of a quarter crack. But his concerns proved groundless as Rare Friends, well-positioned after breaking from the outside post in the field of seven, stalked the pace of Wild Whisky before pouncing for the 2 1/2-length score.

"He impressed me," said Tiller. "He was a late foal - May 26 - and he's matured."

The next two stakes stepping-stones to the June 23 Plate are the six-furlong Woodstock here April 20 and the seven-furlong Queenston here May 4. The open Woodstock is worth $125,000 and the Queenston, restricted to Canadian-breds, goes for $150,000.

"We're certainly considering both," said Tiller. "I think up to seven furlongs he'll probably give anybody a run for their money, and I believe he could get a mile and a sixteenth."

Win City working for season debut

Another Tiller-trained champion, Win City, breezed five furlongs on a sloppy main track in 1:00.40 here Wednesday and should make his seasonal bow in the April 27 Vigil Handicap.

"He loves the slop," said Tiller. "I had no problem working him in it."

The Grade 3 Vigil, a seven-furlong handicap worth $150,000, would be Win City's first start since Nov. 10.

"He may be running there to get a race under his belt," said Tiller. "He'll start from there, then stretch out."

Win City, a homebred gelding owned by DiGiulio, finished third in last year's Achievement and then won the Queenston, the 1 1/16-mile Marine, and the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial before finishing second in the Plate.

He finished his 2001 campaign with six stakes wins and earnings of $876,187 and was voted Canada's Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male.

Wednesday's workout was the fifth of the season for Win City, who wintered at the nearby Buttigieg Training Center and came to the track with Rare Friends on Feb. 3.

While probably at his best over middle distances, Win City is perfect in two starts at seven furlongs, including the Queenston here last May.

Tiller undecided about Whimsical

Tiller also trains two of the nominees for the April 13 Whimsical, in Madame Red and Press Exclusive, but is not sure that either will be in the lineup for the $125,000, six-furlong race for fillies and mares.

Madame Red, a 4-year-old owned by the Norseman Racing Stable of Howard Walton, won her first stakes here last fall in the La Lorgnette, the highlight of a campaign in which she won 4 of 8 starts and $210,350.

"She wants to go longer than six furlongs but she may run, to get a race under her," said Tiller.

Press Exclusive, a 6-year-old who won 5 of 9 starts and $187,164 for DiGiulio last year, had been working very rapidly and was headed for last Friday's five-furlong La Voyageuse when she suffered a setback.

"She came up with a foot bruise," said Tiller, adding that the bruise may keep Press Exclusive out of the Whimsical as well.

Helping to make the Whimsical more tempting will be the absence of Madame Roar, who was not nominated to the race and would have been an intimidating opponent off her romping win in the La Voyageuse.

A 4-year-old filly owned by the S J B Stable of Stephen Barberino Jr., Madame Roar has returned to Maryland, where she has been trained by Tim Ritchey, after racing for trainer Frank Passero in the La Voyageuse.

"They want to go on to bigger and better things," said assistant trainer Gino Passero, who saddled Madame Roar here on behalf of his father. "She'll probably meet some graded stakes company."

The younger Passero, 35, is holding the fort here with eight horses while Frank Passero stays on with 16 runners at Gulfstream Park, where the meeting ends April 24.

The Passero outfit also won last Saturday's third race with Nancy's Fancy and will be looking for its third success in as many starts at the meeting when Glitterin' Gold runs in Friday's fifth race.