08/29/2003 11:00PM

Mulligan the Great eyes repeat


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The six-furlong Kenora often has been one of the highly competitive events on the yearling sales stakes program.

And Monday's renewal of the Kenora will be no exception, with Mulligan the Great, the defending champion, riding the crest of back-to-back stakes wins but facing stiff competition from Rare Friends, Wild Whiskey, and Forever Grand.

Mulligan the Great, a 4-year-old owned by Charles Simmons and trained by Cliff Hopmans, has to be considered the horse to beat off his victories in the seven-furlong Overskate July 2 and the 6 1/2-furlong Bold Venture July 19, his last start.

"He's run some of his best races fresh," said Hopmans.

Mulligan the Great has been quite eager in the early going in those stakes victories, and both Wild Whiskey and Rare Friends are similarly inclined.

Rare Friends has raced just three times this year, winning two stakes, and has been away since July 1.

"I've tried to point him for this race," said trainer Bob Tiller, who owns Rare Friends in partnership with Frank DiGiulio.

Forever Grand, who also races for Tiller and DiGiulio but will not be coupled with Rare Friends, rallied from last place in the field of seven to capture the Shepperton only nine days beforte this race.

Forever Grand would be the main beneficiary of a torrid front-end duel.

Twisted Wit risks perfect record

Tiller also will saddle a strong contender for the Simcoe in Twisted Wit, who will be looking for his third win in as many outings in the seven-furlong sales stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings.

Twisted Wit, owned by Rolph Davis, won his maiden over five furlongs here July 27 and then won the six-furlong Vandal three weeks later.

Three days before the Vandal, Twisted Wit gave his connections a scare when he acted up and became pinned under the starting gate during a schooling session, suffering minor injuries. He also misbehaved in the paddock prior to the Vandal.

"He went into that race about 80 percent," said Tiller. "He had a little bit of swelling on the top of his eye, and it was bleeding into his sinus, but he's healed right up.

"As long as there are no major incidents, with his antics, I think he's going to be very tough."

Algoma-Elgin double?

Stronach Stable and trainer Danny Vella have an excellent shot at a sales stakes double, with Winning Chance going in the 1 1/16-mile Algoma for fillies and mares and Phantom Light in the 1 1/16-mile Elgin for colts and geldings.

Winning Chance and Phantom Light come into their races under similar circumstances.

Both disappointed in their last starts, in July, and were then sent to the farm to freshen up for their Monday races. Both will be ridden by Todd Kabel, and are the highweights in their respective races. They appear to be perfectly suited for the distance, will be favored, and probably will lead throughout.

Winning Chance will be the shorter priced of the pair, as she faces only three rivals.

Phantom Light will face a more difficult task in the Elgin, even with Mobil cross-entered in the Halton and almost certain to opt for that turf event.

That would leave Phantom Light with just four opponents, but three of them - Anglian Prince, Barbeau Ruckus, and Cool N Collective - are in solid form and well suited to the distance.

La Grande Mamma tops Muskoka

La Grande Mamma, who is undefeated in two starts, is the one to beat in the Muskoka, the seven-furlong sales stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

La Grande Mamma was a 15 1/2-length winner over 5 1/2 furlongs at first asking and was claimed for $25,000 by trainer Steve Owens. She then won the $137,375 Nandi for owner Don Lebovitz three weeks later.