07/30/2001 11:00PM

Three worthy contenders in training race

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Even though Bob Tiller is leading in the Woodbine trainer standings by a clear margin over Mike Wright Jr., he claims he doesn't have much chance of winning the trainer title this year.

"They're claiming horses left and right off me," said Tiller, adding that Wright "is claiming three a day."

Tiller said, "I run a different type of operation. I'm not claiming that many back, because I need the stalls for my young horses."

Tiller had won with 35 of his 136 starters at the meet through last Sunday, almost the half-way point of the meet, while Wright had 31 victories with 114 starters.

Mark Casse, currently third in the standings with 28 wins from 164 starters, is probably the only trainer with a shot of catching both Tiller and Wright.

"I wouldn't mind being leading trainer," Casse said, but noted that he had sent several horses to race in the United States "who were capable of winning here."

Casse said, "If I really wanted to go after it, I could bring in some reinforcements, but my ultimate goal is to do the best thing for all the horses." If the trainers' race were to be close near meet's end, he said, "then I could ship some in."

Of trainers with at least 20 starters, former jockey Robbie King Jr. has the highest win percentage (37.5). King has won with nine of his 24 runners.

Mark Frostad has been winning at a 31 percent clip, and leads all trainers in earnings with $2,292,921.

Patrick Husbands, currently second in the rider standings, could have an edge over top jock Todd Kabel during the second half of the meet. Kabel has won with 72 of his 328 mounts, while Husbands has 67 wins from 396 mounts.

Kabel, Woodbine's leading rider in 1992 and 1995, thinks he has a realistic chance of staying on top.

Said Kabel, "I think I can do it, as long as I stay healthy and if I keep riding the proper horses. My numbers aren't going to be the same as Patrick's. I'm sure he'll end up riding 200 more horses than I will. I've got my foot in a lot of doors - I'm riding for everybody on the track, and if you're doing that, then you have a good shot of being on top."

Tom Patton Jr., agent for Husbands, pointed out that Husbands traditionally does best during the second half of the season.

"He rides for a lot of different outfits," Patton said. "Because of the number of horses he rides, he has a good chance of leading, and he usually doesn't get rolling until the second half of the year."

Husbands, who won the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont in May aboard longshot Exciting Story, has captured the Woodbine riding title each of the last two years.

Patton's other rider, Jono Jones, has been one of the biggest surprises of the meet. Jones, a former leading rider in Barbados, has won 23 races in this, his first year here.

"Nobody had heard of him when he came here in the spring," Patton said. "He just showed up, and got on the right horses. What I really like about him is that he has the right attitude. He always shows up on time. He just wants to make it here."

Other riders who have done surprisingly well at the meet include Ray Sabourin, who is currently sixth in the standings with 30 wins; Dino Luciani, who ranks eighth with 27 wins; and Frank Todd Jr., who has won nine races with just 47 mounts.

Show him the money

A series of large show bets of at least $10,000 have been made on short-priced favorites during the last few months on live and simulcast racing at Woodbine. At least three such wagers were made and cashed on July 18 alone.

The Canadian version of the "Mad Bomber" appeared to let out a few notches while backing On the Game in the seventh race last Sunday at Woodbine. Of the $172,063 bet to show on the race, $165,447 was riding on On the Game, who finished second at 1-5.

On the Game had graduated impressively in his only previous start, after which he was sold by trainer Laurie Silvera to John Franks for a reported $200,000 (U.S.).

The plunger apparently took one on the chin in the second race Monday at Elmira, a tiny Ontario harness track. Show wagering was cancelled on the event, but most of the $21,653 bet to place on the race was riding on the heavy favorite, a trotter who broke stride and finished out of the money. The top two finishers both paid around $100 each to place.

License awareness

The Ontario Racing Commission will be conducting a license awareness program at all racetracks across the province in September.

Licensees are required to carry their current ORC licenses at all times when in the stable area of the track or acting in the capacity for which the license was issued.

The ORC also has approved rule changes extending its recognition of licensees from other jurisdictions to include the National Racing Compact.

That group, which is based the United States, acts as a central licensing clearinghouse, processing applications and forwarding information to participating jurisdictions, including Ontario. The ORC is working with the Compact to have Ontario licenses recognized.

Jockey Club invites two to join

The national and provincial presidents of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association and Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society have been invited to become members of the Jockey Club of Canada during their terms of office.

Glenn Sikura, president of the Ontario division of the CTHS, has been a member of the JCC since 1996 and a steward since 2000.

Larry Regan is president of the Ontario HBPA.

* El Prado Essence and Cryptic Response are the two big guns in Thursday's feature, a $100,000 optional claimer for fillies and mares.

* The ORC will hear apprentice jockey Jeff Burningham's appeal of a 30-day suspension on Aug. 15. The stewards had ruled Burningham had ridden "in an unsafe manner" during the ninth race here June 15, when his mount Dema Wail finished first but was disqualified and placed last.

- additional reporting by Bill Tallon