06/27/2003 11:00PM

Rare Friends a fresh danger


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Crack sprinter Rare Friends, a Canadian champion at 2, is the headliner in Tuesday's six-furlong Parnitha Stakes, one of two $60,000 supporting features to the $250,000 Bison City.

The Parnitha drew a field of five while the Centre Stage Anne attracted seven entrants. Both races are for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds and up, with the Centre Stage Anne for fillies and mares at six furlongs.

Trained by Woodbine's Bob Tiller, Rare Friends, now 4, will be making his third start of the season in the Parnitha. He's been idle since April 11 when he won the $134,000 Jacques Cartier Stakes at Woodbine, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 98.

Since then, the gelding had "a little throat operation," Tiller said. "He's in good order and needs to run. I think he's in better shape than he was for the stakes."

Robert Landry, here to ride Too Late Now in the Bison City, will be aboard Rare Friends, who has won 8 of 16 lifetime starts and earned $617,914.

Go Figure, trained by Myckie Neubauer, appears to have the best chance of the locals.

A versatile runner, Go Figure closed well to finish second in the 1 1/16-mile Bridgeburg, Fort Erie's first stakes race of the year June 15. In his first race at this meet May 18, Go Figure rallied from last to win a six-furlong optional claiming race by four lengths.

Neubauer, winning at a 37-percent clip, hasn't done many things wrong at this meet. From 19 starts, heading into Saturday's action, she had seven wins, seven seconds, and two thirds. Brian Bochinski, as usual, has been named to ride Go Figure, a six-time winner who has earnings of $329,763.

Fort Erie-based Roman Romance gets top billing in the Centre Stage Anne even though trainer John Simms is a little apprehensive of the distance for his huge, 5-year-old mare. She has never won at six furlongs.

"Six furlongs is not the best for her," Simms said. "Six and a half, or seven, hits her right between the eyes. She is long-striding, but once she gets going she's like a runaway train."

Originally, because of her size and the way she kicked in late, Simms believed Roman Romance would be best in races around two turns.

"She's changed her style a little, where she now has more speed early," Simms said. "And we're now running her short. She has never been better than she is this year."

In her last start, the $128,000, six-furlong Ballade Stakes at Woodbine June 11, Roman Romance's furious rally fell just a neck short.

Racing will resume here Friday, which usually is a dark day, with a special July 4 program. Post time will be 1:05 p.m.