12/07/2005 12:00AM

Tiller has last-chance shots at stakes success


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Bob Tiller, who has taken home the last two Sovereign Awards in the outstanding trainer category, isn't harboring particularly high hopes on that front this season.

Tiller has been putting up his usual strong numbers at Woodbine in races won and money earned, ranking third on both lists heading into the final week of the meeting. But Tiller has not enjoyed as high a profile on the stakes scene, with four added-money victories here this year compared to 15 at each of the two previous meetings.

But Tiller will be looking to close out the season with a bang as he will send out Are You Serious for Saturday's $125,000 Kennedy Road and Vegas Venture for Sunday's $125,000 Valedictory Handicap.

Both stakes are for 3-year-olds and upward, with the Kennedy Road at six furlongs and the Valedictory at 1 3/4 miles.

Are You Serious, owned by Tiller in partnership with Frank DiGiulio, will be seeking his third straight win while making his stakes debut in the Kennedy Road.

"He's a 3-year-old, running against older horses, but we'll take a shot at it," said Tiller. "He's earned the chance."

Are You Serious has won 4 of 6 starts this year, with all of his successes coming at 6 1/2 furlongs.

In his most recent start, which came Nov. 17 here, Are You Serious was up in time to prevail by a head. That effort yielded a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 96.

"His form tells the facts; he's a nice horse," said Tiller. "He'd probably prefer 6 1/2 furlongs, or seven furlongs, but he's in good order."

Vegas Venture goes long

Vegas Venture, a 5-year-old gelding owned by DiGiulio, was claimed for $50,000 on the final day of the 2004 meeting.

In five starts this season, Vegas Venture has compiled a record of 2-1-1 while banking $94,381.

"He's run very well for us," said Tiller. "We've definitely been pointing him for this race. I think he deserves a chance."

Vegas Venture became stakes-placed in his last start when he was second in the Labeeb, an overnight stakes at one mile and 70 yards.

The Valedictory will be by far the most taxing trip to date for Vegas Venture, whose longest previous test was a 1 1/8-mile turf race that he won for previous trainer Sid Attard in October 2004.

"It's a debatable thing, whether he'll go that far," said Tiller. "But I think he has a better chance of getting the distance than not."

Corey Fraser has the mounts on both Are You Serious and Vegas Venture.

Twisted Wit done till next year

Tiller had a second Kennedy Road nominee in Twisted Wit, but that 4-year-old gelding has been sent home for the season.

Twisted Wit, who has been prone to prerace antics throughout his career, has behaved well in his last two trips postward and was rewarded with his first win of the season here last Saturday.

"I think we're on the right track with him," said Tiller. "We've had a lot of hard work with him, especially with his gate antics. I think he'll be fine; he's just a slow learner."

Demeanor aside, Twisted Wit has been fast enough to win four stakes, 7 of 20 races, and $621,093. His latest success came in a fourth-level optional claiming race in which he was entered for the $100,000 price.

Rohman has two in Kennedy Road

Trainer Bob Rohman, who checked in from Hastings last month with three horses owned by Simichiello Stable, already has made the venture profitable.

Bull Ranch was Rohman's first winner here, taking a six-furlong allowance race last Thursday. Earlier on the same card, No Sox Fox had finished second in a six-furlong allowance race after running third two weeks earlier in his local debut at the same distance.

On Saturday, both Bull Ranch and No Sox Fox will make their final starts of the season in the Kennedy Road.

Rohman admits that when he arrived at Woodbine he had never envisioned the two 3-year-old geldings competing in the same race.

While No Sox Fox had sprinting on his agenda, Bull Ranch came into town off a pair of route races at Hastings in his first two appearances for Rohman.

After finishing second there in the 1 1/8-mile British Columbia Derby, Bull Ranch had won the 1 3/8-mile Premier's, and the Valedictory seemed a more probable target than the Kennedy Road.

But after Bull Ranch's local debut in the 1 1/16-mile Woodbine Slots Cup, where he faltered to finish seventh, Rohman was searching for a return spot and entered him in the sprint.

"It was a chance thing, really," said Rohman. "I know he's got lots of power to him. I told the rider to break him out of there, and just let him relax, and make a run at them."

Apprentice jockey Justin Stein followed that script perfectly as Bull Ranch, who had been employing a front-running style in routes, rallied from sixth place to prevail by a half-length in the second-level optional claimer.

The distance was the shortest that Bull Ranch had attempted, and his Beyer Speed Figure of 87 matched his career best, earned in the Premier's.

"He ran an excellent race," said Rohman. "He may prefer that style of running."

Stein, who also has ridden No Sox Fox in his two local outings, will be sticking with Bull Ranch for the Kennedy Road. Jim McAleney takes over aboard No Sox Fox, who came up 1 1/4 lengths short under third-level allowance terms last time after finishing 5 1/2 lengths back in the Kennedy Road prep.

"If it had been 6 1/2 furlongs, I think he would have been closer in both races," said Rohman. "He might have won the race where he was second."