11/08/2004 1:00AM

Tiller speeds toward finish


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The temperature may be dropping, but trainer Bob Tiller's barn is hot heading into the last five weeks of the meeting.

Tiller sent out Winter Garden to take Saturday's $137,750 Ontario Fashion and Simply Lovely to capture Sunday's $165,900 Fanfreluche.

Last year, Tiller was the leading trainer in races won and money won, and his 15 stakes wins also were tops in that category here.

This year, Tiller has won 13 stakes at the meeting, placing him in a tie for first with Mark Frostad.

On Saturday, Tiller will send out Slew's Saga, who will be a short price in a short field for the $250,000 Coronation Futurity.

Slew's Saga, owned by Karen and Mickey Taylor, is coming off a romping win in the Cup and Saucer, a 1 1/16-mile turf race for Canadian-bred 2-year-olds.

The Coronation is run at 1 1/8 miles on dirt, but Slew's Saga won his maiden at a mile and 70 yards on the main track in his start before the Cup and Saucer.

Tiller also has Twisted Wit on tap for Saturday's $97,000 Mt. Sassafras, a seven-furlong race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds and upward.

As an overnight stakes, the Mt. Sassafras is not part of the guaranteed schedule, but it attracted 18 nominees and should make the cut.

Further down the road, both of Tiller's recent winners are slated to make one more appearance here before being put away for the winter.

Winter Garden, a Kentucky-bred 4-year-old filly owned by Frank DiGiulio, should run back in the Grade 3, $150,000 Bessarabian, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares Nov. 28.

Simply Lovely, a Canadian-bred, could return in the Glorious Song, a seven-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies Nov. 21.

Last year, Winter Garden pulled off the Fashion-Bessarabian double to wind up her campaign with six wins in nine starts and earnings of $470,826.

The six-furlong Fashion was Winter Garden's fourth win from six outings this season, and she has finished second in the other two while banking $353,460 under regular rider David Clark.

"I like to run her up to seven furlongs, and she covered all her spots," said Tiller. "She was the best in the spring, the best in the fall - she's just the best. She keeps proving it, time and time again."

Winter Garden, who had finished second behind stablemate Brass in Pocket after a poor start in the seven-furlong Seaway here Sept. 11, vindicated herself in style in the Fashion.

"She had the 1-hole this time; I was worried about that," said Tiller. "But this race was typical for her; she does what has to be done. David knows her well - he rode her super."

Clark, who also rode My Pal Lana to victory here in Saturday's River Memories, has won seven stakes at the meeting.

Brass in Pocket set for final start

Winter Garden is slated to return to the races next year, but Brass in Pocket, who finished fourth in the Fashion, will be heading to the breeding shed.

A 5-year-old owned and bred by DiGiulio, Brass in Pocket is scheduled to make her last start here Dec. 1 in the $125,000 Classy 'N Smart.

Brass in Pocket has won the last two runnings of the Classy 'N Smart, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired fillies and mares.

Less distance helps Simply Lovely

Simply Lovely, ridden by her usual partner, Steven Bahen, recorded her third stakes win in the Fanfreluche, a six-furlong race for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies.

In her last start, Simply Lovely had tried two turns for the first time and faltered to finish fourth in the 1 1/16-mile Princess Elizabeth, beaten 7 1/2 lengths.

"I was concerned about backing her up," said Tiller. "To overcome that, you've got to be much the best. It's a tough act for a little filly who really doesn't have a lot of substance to her."

Although Tiller is not about to dismiss Simply Lovely as a middle-distance prospect, he also is prepared to accept that she may be strictly a sprinter.

"When she tried a mile and a sixteenth, I didn't think she ran her race that day," said Tiller. "And, I thought the track was way too deep. I'll try her again at a mile and a sixteenth if I think it's the right thing to do."

My Pal Lana ends year in style

My Pal Lana notched her second stakes win in Saturday's $112,000 River Memories, a one-mile turf race for fillies and mares.

A 4-year-old owned and bred by George Strawbridge Jr. and trained by Mac Benson, My Pal Lana took the Flaming Page at 1 1/2 miles on turf here Sept. 25.

My Pal Lana then finished fifth against males at 1 1/4 miles on yielding going in the Chief Bearhart on Oct. 30, just one week before the River Memories.

"She's in great shape, and the season's just about over," said Benson. "There was no reason I couldn't run her back."

My Pal Lana will not see action again this year and is slated to winter with Benson at Payson Park.

Tinakilly makes two-turn debut

Benson has now won four stakes this season, the other pair coming courtesy of the recently retired Inish Glora, who is owned by Bob Costigan.

Benson and Costigan will try to add to that total Wednesday evening when they send Tinakilly here in the $134,500 South Ocean, a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies.

A maiden after six starts, Tinakilly will be trying two turns for the first time, but she has shown potential to go farther.

"I was going to run her in a maiden race going long," said Benson. "But the more I looked at this race, the more I thought I might as well take a shot."