04/11/2002 11:00PM

Streakin Rob cranks up


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - In only 10 weeks, on June 23, the 1 1/4-mile Queen's Plate will be run at Woodbine.

And while the connections of many candidates for Canada's $1 million showpiece may be starting to feel the pinch, that does not appear to be the case with trainer Jim Day, who has one of the prime Plate prospects, Streakin Rob.

"We're not in a big rush," Day said. "He has a comfortable foundation from his 2-year-old campaign."

Streakin Rob, owned by Rob Cudney and Allan Kent, started seven times during the span of 3 1/2 months in his first year at the races last year, and his finest hour came in the Coronation Futurity, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds, which he won by a neck here Oct. 28.

Just under three weeks later, the gelding Streakin Rob finished second to Kentucky-bred Tails of the Crypt in the 1 1/16-mile Display. And he was back for more 15 days after that, running a close third in the 1 1/16-mile Kingarvie.

"It would have been nice if he'd had a bigger gap between some of those races," said Day. "But he fit every race that came along, and he hit them all."

After the Kingarvie, Streakin Rob was sent to the trainer's nearby Day By Day Farm.

"He had a bit of a wind down, about three weeks," said Day. "I was riding him myself, through the woods. It was good for him, physically and mentally."

Then, after giving Streakin Rob a break for most of January, Day climbed back into the saddle and resumed the program of light exercise before relocating the horse to his shed row here March 1.

"He's doing well," said Day. "He worked five-eighths the other day [Monday, in 1:00.80], and galloped out a good three-quarters.

"We're just steering toward June 23. He'll have two or three starts before then; we're not sure how it's going to unfold."

Day said that next Saturday's Woodstock, an open six-furlong stakes to which Streakin Rob was nominated, is not scheduled to be part of the program.

"I don't plan to run him three-quarters," said Day, "so it's not likely he's going to run there."

The Queenston, the next stakes stepping-stone on the road to the Plate, will be run at seven furlongs here May 4.

"The Queenston is a fairly serious consideration," said Day, who is not optimistic about finding an appropriate allowance race for his charge. "I'm not crazy about running him seven-eighths of a mile, but at least I'm fairly sure that race is going to happen."

Day would like to confirm a rider for Streakin Rob's campaign, but said a recent arrangement appears to have fallen through.

"We'll have to revamp those plans," said Day, who went through a series of adventures with Streakin Rob's jockeys last year when David Clark rode the colt in his first and last starts, Todd Kabel in his second through fourth outings, and Gary Boulanger in his fifth and sixth appearances.

Rare Friends zips 58-second work

Rare Friends zipped five furlongs in 58 on a fast main track under regular rider David Clark here Friday morning, and will likely be seeking his second stakes win of the young meeting in the $125,000 Woodstock. The work was the fastest, by better than two seconds, of 25 at the distance.

"He's a serious horse, and serious horses work serious when they're in good order," said Bob Tiller, who trains Rare Friends and is a co-owner of the gelding along with partner Frank DiGiulio. "He's a definite starter in the Woodstock, if he's okay."

Canada's champion male 2-year-old, Rare Friends recorded the fourth added-money score of his career when making his 2002 debut in the six-furlong Achievement here March 31.

Rare Friends had missed some training time before that race because of a quarter crack, and while the problem briefly flared up again this week, it is okay now.

"We had to repatch him during the week," said Tiller, "but it looks good today."

Claiming prices rising soon

Woodbine's fourth condition book, which takes effect April 19, includes increases in the price levels for conditioned claiming races.

Claiming races for non-winners of two, which formerly were offered at the $12,500 and $25,000 levels, now will be carded for $16,000 and $32,000 prices, respectively.

The claiming races for non-winners of three, which were offered at the $16,000 and $32,000 levels, also have been bumped up one level and now will be carded for $20,000 and $40,000 prices.

Chris Evans, Woodbine's racing secretary and director of racing, believes the changes represent a more desirable option for horses who have won their maiden races but may find the going too difficult at the first allowance level.

"We're narrowing the gap," he said, between the allowance and conditioned claiming levels. "We're trying to give those horses a shot not to run for a cheaper price."

Evans adds that inflating the claiming levels could serve as a boost to local owners and breeders, in the same vein as the introduction of maiden allowance and first-level allowance races for Ontario-sired horses.

"We're trying to give owners a higher market value for their horses," he said.

Handicappers host free seminar

Jim Mazur and Jim Bannon will host a free one-hour seminar beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday on the second floor, east of the food court.

The handicappers will focus on the online "Woodbine Daily Sheet," and free copies of "Winning at Woodbine," authored by Mazur and Bannon, will be distributed.