08/01/2006 11:00PM

Neil the Knife leads Tiller duo


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Bob Tiller will be holding a strong hand at Woodbine on Friday, when he saddles Neil the Knife and Handsome King in the featured second race, a second-level Ontario-sired allowance.

Neil the Knife is proven around the sharp bends of the inner track, having won a recent first-level Ontario-sired allowance at five furlongs, the distance of Friday's race. He has the highest recent Beyer Speed Figures in this field, including a career-best 83 Beyer in his last start. His tactical speed makes him especially dangerous. David Clark, who has nine wins from 46 mounts at the meeting for Tiller, retains the mount.

Handsome King should go off at a higher price than Neil the Knife, even though he's taking a slight class drop from open allowance company. Handsome King won a five-furlong Ontario-sired allowance on the main track three starts back, in his second appearance of the year. He then raced very wide when fifth in a 6 1/2-furlong contest two starts ago and was recently a wide fifth again in a six-furlong race on Queen's Plate Day. Apprentice Justin Stein will ride Handsome King.

Rounding out the second-race lineup are Tiger Claw, Santino's Honour, Gladiator at Dawn, and Foxy Money.

Tiger Claw finished in front of Handsome King in back-to-back open allowances in June. He was a troubled third June 10 and finished second to the unbeaten VSOP Please after a four-wide journey over a rail-biased track June 25.

Santino's Honour has seemingly improved with each outing this year. He was narrowly beaten in his second start off the sidelines, then ran second again in another Ontario-sired allowance, before winning at the first restricted condition going seven furlongs June 28. Last time out, at a mile on the grass July 21, Santino's Honour stalked the pace and took control in midstretch, only to weaken late and finish third. The winner, Decew Falls, won the 2005 Vice Regent Stakes, and the runner-up, Uncle Max, is headed for Sunday's Breeders' Stakes.

Gladiator at Dawn recorded two straight dirt wins in the fall before getting the winter off. He finished a game third in his season opener, but wasn't up to snuff in his two subsequent races, including one on the grass.

Foxy Money has struggled since capturing the restricted Bull Page Stakes in October.