04/15/2003 11:00PM

That's three for the Tiller-man


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - When you're hot, you're hot, and trainer Bob Tiller has been sizzling.

Tiller entered the week atop the Woodbine trainer standings in both races won, with seven, and earnings, with $488,190, from 24 starters.

He has dominated the early stakes, with three straight victories. He trains Rare Friends and Brass in Pocket, who won the two stakes races here last week, and his runner Winter Garden scored an upset in the April 5 Star Shoot.

Rare Friends, a 4-year-old gelding owned by Tiller in partnership with Frank DiGiulio, opened his 2003 campaign with a fifth-place finish in the Briartic Handicap, but rebounded in style to win last Friday's $134,875 Jacques Cartier on the front end.

"I was expecting that kind of performance in that first race and he didn't show up," said Tiller. "He was operated on during the winter, on his throat, and he really acted like he's got a lot more air."

Rare Friends was Canada's champion 2-year-old male in 2001, winning three stakes and $247,365. He won two more stakes and $286,384 last year despite struggling at times.

"We had problems all year long with his lungs, and his breathing, and his feet," said Tiller. "He's in good order right now, and I think he's going to be an awful good sprinter this year."

Brass in Pocket: A new dimension

Brass in Pocket, a 4-year-old filly owned by DiGiulio, was making her seasonal bow in Saturday's $187,250 Whimsical, and showed a new dimension by rallying from ninth place in the field of 10.

"She kind of got squeezed leaving there," said Tiller. "Then she got clear to the outside and showed that she could run horses down.

"The track came up in her favor - we got lucky that way."

A homebred by Domasca Dan, Brass in Pocket had employed a front-running style while winning two stakes, five of eight starts, and $299,155 last year in her first campaign.

Her next target is the Grade 3, $150,000 George C. Hendrie Handicap, a 6 1/2-furlong race for older fillies and mares here May 11.

"From there, we'll try and stretch her out," said Tiller. "I think she's better at longer distances."

Shooting for No. 4

Tiller will be looking for a stakes four-bagger here in Saturday's Woodstock with Soitenly and Aba Daba Doo going in a field of seven in the six-furlong race.

Soitenly, owned by DiGiulio, is undefeated in two starts, including a front-running first-level allowance win in his 2003 debut here April 5.

"He's doing very well," said Tiller. "I think he's a talented horse. He's going to get the big acid test in there, and I think he'll give a good account of himself."

Aba Daba Doo, a Florida-bred who closed out his first year of racing with back-to-back wins, at 6 1/2 furlongs and 1 1/16 miles, was scheduled to make his 2003 bow in a second-level allowance here Friday, but the race did not fill.

Another horse trained by Tiller and owned by DiGiulio, Appas Tappas, also was nominated to the Woodstock, but instead will compete in a first-level allowance race on Saturday. He won his lone start at 2 and was a troubled second behind Soitenly in his 3-year-old debut.

Mobil pointing to Queenston

Mobil, a stablemate of leading Woodstock candidate Wando, worked six furlongs in 1:14.80 Tuesday, and is on target for his 3-year-old debut in the May 3 Queenston.

"He's working very well at the moment," said Mike Keogh, who trains both Mobil and Wando for owner-breeder Gustav Schickedanz.

The Queenston was the seasonal starting point for Keogh and Schickedanz's 1999 Queen's Plate winner, Woodcarver.