12/04/2008 12:00AM

Milestone brightens 'off' year for Tiller


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Bob Tiller's next win was bound to be a memorable one in any case, but the trainer showed a flair for the dramatic here Wednesday evening.

Entering the card with just two starters and one win shy of the 1,500 career mark, Tiller reached the milestone with Dancer's Bajan in the $125,800 Sir Barton Stakes.

"Absolutely it was appropriate to do it in a stakes race," said Tiller, who has been training since 1972 and was to celebrate his 59th birthday on Friday. "He's a good horse - a horse with heart and desire and class. He wants to win."

Dancer's Bajan ($7.40), ridden by Patrick Husbands, wore down the pacesetting Sand Cove in the final strides to win the 1 1/16-mile race by a half-length in a time of 1:43.60.

Dancer's Bajan, a 4-year-old gelding, races for 3 Sons Racing Stable. He recorded his third stakes win of the season in the Sir Barton, accounting for all of Tiller's success in that department this year.

Although Tiller experienced another personal high when he was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame this summer, the year 2008 will not go down as one of Tiller's finest on the racetrack.

"It was a funny year to get it," Tiller said of the Hall of Fame honor. "It wasn't one of my better years.

"But, I've said before that I get the best out of what I've got. I'm not unhappy. I knew what I had to work with at the beginning of the year. I lacked quality horses."

Dancer's Bajan was Tiller's 37th winner of the meeting, and that, supplemented by five winners at Fort Erie, would be a good season in most any trainer's books.

But Tiller is not just any trainer. After 19 consecutive top-five finishes here, including four titles, he will wind up sixth or seventh in races won here this year. He also will finish below the 50-win mark for the first time in eight years.

"We had a terrible summer, but we've won 17 races in the last two months," said Tiller. "It's a matter of developing your horses. They weren't really as good as we'd hoped, and that hurt us."

Tiller already has set his sights on better days in 2009, however. After purchasing four yearlings at Ocala, Fla., in August and another dozen at the local sales, the trainer will have 30 2-year-olds to work with next year.

"That's enough," said Tiller. "We'll try and do a little more claiming next year, too. This economy means you have to get more 'instant' horses."

Tiller claimed 19 horses here in 2000 and 10 in 2001 but has not claimed more than five horses in the intervening years, including four this year heading into Friday's card.

Two of his claims this year have won for their new connections, with Morning Prayers scoring twice for The Very Dry Stable and Ky Bluz Girl connecting for longtime Tiller client and partner Frank DiGiulio Jr.

Full afternoon for closer

The Woodbine meeting will finish on an extended note here Sunday with 13 races on a program scheduled to begin at 12:40 p.m. and conclude at about 6:30. The "extended" theme also will include the two longest races of the meeting.

The $125,000 Valedictory Stakes, a 1 3/4-mile race for 3-year-olds and upward, attracted a field of 13 headed by last year's winner, Torquay.

A $25,000 starter allowance for 3-year-olds and upward will go with a field of 11, including Long Journey, who is coming off an impressive win in a $12,500 starter allowance at 1 1/4 miles. The second- and third-place finishers from that race already have come back to score.

Service set for Lynett

A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday for Frank Lynett, a longtime owner who died of cancer early Wednesday morning at age 84.

The service will take place at St. Cecilia's Church, 161 Annette St. in Toronto.

Visitation was to be Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Lynett Funeral Home, 3299 Dundas St. W., of which Mr. Lynett was a former owner.

Lynett owned horses in partnership with his wife, Kathleen. The Lynetts' most recent runner was Stonington, who was claimed for $40,000 from Sam-Son Farm and went on to win five races under the care of trainer Sid Attard.

Stonington was returned to Sam-Son Farm at the end of her career, and her second foal, due in April, will be owned by Kathleen Lynett.

Lynett also is survived by his daughters Sheila, Maureen, Bridget, and Elizabeth, and four grandchildren.