09/21/2001 11:00PM

Swynford a producer of champions


ETOBICOKE, Ontario -- Many local racing observers would conclude that the two most important Woodbine stakes for 2-year-olds are the Coronation Futurity and the Grade 1 Grey. In recent years, though, the Swynford Stakes has arguably outdone those two races in producing successful runners. The last three Canadian 2-year-old champions all won the seven-furlong Swynford, including future Grade 1 winner Exciting Story, who dusted the upwardly mobile Graeme Hall in the 1999 running.

Sunday's running of the Swynford has another potential champion, Rare Friends, who is unbeaten for trainer Bob Tiller. Rare Friends, a fast son of freshman sire Helmsman, graduated first time out with ease in a five-furlong maiden special on

Aug. 6. He led all the way over a sloppy track two weeks later in the six-furlong Vandal Stakes, earning a superb 86 Beyer Figure in the process. Rare Friends recorded his third consecutive front-running victory Sept. 3 in the seven-furlong Simcoe Stakes, in which he beat a quality field while getting an 84 Beyer.

Tiller said Rare Friends has maintained his sharpness heading into the Swynford. "He's doing very well," Tiller said, "but he doesn't like the gate, which is something we've had to work on. Other than that, he's a stone runner."

Tiller purchased Rare Friends for just $27,000 at the 2000 Canadian Breeders Sales select yearling sale for himself and Frank DiGiulio Jr., who also owns multiple stakes winner Win City. "When I spotted him at the sale, I decided right away that I wanted him," the trainer recalled. "He had good scope and bone, and a lovely way of walking. His sire impressed me. He's won stakes from six furlongs to 1 1/4 miles."

Six others were entered in the $110,000 Swynford, which recently lost its graded status. They are Nicholle's Devil, Open Concert, Movewiththemaestro, Grimer, Nowyouseeit, and Pat's Expectation. Nicholle's Devil won the Sept. 2 Silver Deputy Stakes in a romp, and has won two of three outings for trainer Bobby Pion.

Nowyouseeit was also entered in one of the two supporting features on the card, the Juvenile Stakes for male graduates of local sales. Nowyouseeit, who has been absent since he won his maiden July 8, figures to be scratched from the Swynford and could hook up on the front end in the Juvenile with Chivas on Ice, which might set the table for a closing Embattle. Cellular and Deputy Mary are the only two winners in the filly version of the Juvenile, which is also a six-furlong dash with a guaranteed purse of $60,000.