03/29/2002 12:00AM

Rare Friends may be a work short


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The march to the $1 million Queen's Plate begins Sunday at Woodbine for most of the eight Canadian-bred

3-year-olds in the $164,700 Achieve-ment Handicap, but the likely favorite in the six-furlong dash, Rare Friends, probably isn't headed for June 23 Plate.

Bob Tiller, who trains Rare Friends, last year's champion 2-year-old, feels he has a crack sprinter on his hands and says he isn't seriously considering the 1 1/4-mile Plate at this time.

"I don't think he's a 1 1/4-mile horse," Tiller said, and with good reason. The only time Rare Friends tried two turns as a 2-year-old, in the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity, he faded to finish sixth after looking the part of a winner at the top of the stretch.

Rare Friends used his blazing speed to land his first four starts at 2, which included stakes victories in the Vandal, Simcoe, and Swynford. He has worked in his usual brisk manner this year, but Tiller believes that Rare Friends, a gelding, could need the race as the 122-pound highweight on Sunday.

"He's going to be a work short," Tiller said. "He really should have had a couple of five-eighths works, but we had a little interruption with him - a foot problem - which caused him to miss a work.

"I think he'll run a good race," Tiller said, "but he'll be up against it, with the weight factor and because it's his first start of the year. It won't be easy for him, carrying 122 pounds against some dead-fit horses. We're forced to go here because there's really nowhere else to run him."

David Clark has the mount on Rare Friends, who is owned by Tiller and Frank DiGiulio.

Completing the Achievement lineup will be the speedy John Ross-trained duo of Wild Whiskey and Shaws Creek, along with Nicholle's Devil, Chandra Prakash, Molly's Wisdom, Anglian Prince, and Cree Power.

Chandra Prakash should be a dangerous stalking presence under Robby Albarado if a speed duel materializes. Trained by Josie Carroll, Chandra Prakash is coming off successive scores in maiden and allowance company at the Fair Grounds.

Bull Page Stakes winner Molly's Wisdom has been absent since he ran third to Rare Friends in the Sept. 3 Simcoe. His trainer, Vito Armata, said Molly's Wisdom had a minor setback earlier this week, and may not run on Sunday.

"I'm going to breeze him Saturday morning from the gate," Armata said, "If we like the move, then we'll probably take a shot. If we don't, there's lots of other races for him."