04/08/2003 11:00PM

Tiller has the talent in Cartier


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Bob Tiller will saddle two accomplished 4-year-olds - Rare Friends and Forever Grand - in Friday's $134,875 Jacques Cartier Stakes at Woodbine, which was originally scheduled for last Sunday, when the card was scrapped because of poor track conditions.

Rare Friends, the champion 2-year-old in Canada in 2001, finished fifth when he came off the sidelines in the five-furlong Briartic Handicap on opening day. Tiller said he expects a better effort from him in Friday's six-furlong race.

"Rare Friends came out of his race in great shape," Tiller said. "I don't know whether it was the five-eighths or what, but he simply didn't fire."

Tiller said he was displeased that Rare Friends drew post 1 for Friday's race.

"I don't like him being drawn in the 1-hole, where you have to kind of show your cards early," Tiller said. "He's not a horse who has to be on the lead - he can lay second or third. It'll be up to [Patrick Husbands] to see how the race comes up."

Forever Grand won three consecutive allowance sprints last spring, and subsequently finished third in the Queen's Plate and first in two other restricted route stakes. Tiller believes Forever Grand may be better going longer than six furlongs.

"He's doing very well, but I don't know if sprinting is his game," said Tiller.

Tiller might have had another ace for Friday's race, but he scratched Cheap Talk from Sunday's running of the Jacques Cartier and the stewards ruled Cheap Talk would not be allowed to run Friday. Cheap Talk was scratched because of a foot problem.

Also entered in the Cartier were Wild Whiskey, Pop Rocks, and Lead by Example.

Wild Whiskey, a rapid 4-year-old trained by John Ross, took the six-furlong Woodstock Stakes with authority last April, but was shelved after finishing far back in the May 4 Queenston Stakes. In his only race since, he won an allowance sprint in November. He could link up with Rare Friends on the early lead.

Pop Rocks won a second-level allowance at Aqueduct in December, and hit the board in two third-level allowance races there in January. He had an eventful trip last time in the Briartic, according to trainer Mike Wright Jr., and finished last of eight.

"He was off slowly and ran four wide, against the likes of Krz Ruckus and Wake at Noon," Wright said. "Five-eighths probably isn't his best distance."

Lead by Example, a wet-track specialist trained by Josie Carroll, won the 2001 Old Hickory Stakes at the Fair Grounds. He was a come-from-behind winner over a muddy track in a five-furlong allowance here March 23.