The 32nd annual dinner and ceremony was held near Woodbine racetrack in Mississauga, Ontario and featured a live and silent auction to raise money for the Hall of Fame.
Tiller was one of four members of the Thoroughbred industry inducted into the Hall of Fame, joining Louis Cauz, who entered the “builder” category, and top Canadian-bred horses Smart Strike and Wilderness Song.
Tiller began training horses in 1972 and was considered a wonder-child when he won 21 races in his first year as a conditioner. For years, Tiller has piled up wins and became a favorite for racing fans — his horses are often well bet. For 19 seasons, Tiller has been in the top five trainers at Woodbine.
He won his first of three Sovereign Awards for top trainer in 2001 and worked his way up from strictly a claiming trainer up to the highest echelon of conditioners.
Tiller’s keen eye for a yearling is also well documented. One of his many success stories was champion Rare Friends, a Helmsman gelding Tiller bought for himself and longtime client Frank DiGiulio Jr, for $18,284.
Some of his other top runners include Horse of the Year Win City and multiple stakes winners such as Domasca Dan and Elated Guy.
“It is an unbelievable, great feeling; I’m so very touched,” said Tiller up upon his induction. “Respect is the best thing you can get in this game and it feels great that this game has respect for me.”
Tiller credited fellow trainers Glenn Magnusson, John Calhoun, and Lou Cavalaris, plus DiGiulio and his father Frank Sr. and Woodbine Entertainment for his accomplishments in the business.
“This is a game of details,” said Tiller. “You have to pay attention to every detail when it comes to the horse.”
Tiller also thanked his wife Gail, who has been an important part of the family’s business.
“She has been more than my wife, she is my best friend, She has stood beside me for all these years.”
Cauz, the curator of the Hall of Fame was instrumental in finding the first physical home for the Hall at Woodbine 12 years ago. In fact, Cauz was one of several publicists and racing fans in the early 1970s to inaugurate the Hall of Fame, which until 1996 was simply a mythical Hall. A racing journalist and handicapper, Cauz is known as the official historian of horse racing in Ontario.
He wrote the book “The Plate: A Royal Tradition,” a detailed history of the Queen’s Plate and racing in southern Ontario and maintains the racing library at Woodbine.
Cauz is responsible for the building and design of the Hall of Fame located in the west entrance of Woodbine racetrack. The Hall has artifacts, silks, trophies, and biographies of horses and people that have made the game at Woodbine.
Smart Strike, a son of Mr. Prospector—Classy ’n Smart was bred and is owned by Sam-Son Farms and is considered one of the world’s top stallions. The 16-year-old was a top performer on the track, winning the grade I Philip Iselin Handicap and Salvator Mile (gr. III) both at Monmouth Park.
He was headed to the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Woodbine before a leg injury ended his career.
Today, Smart Strike stands for a fee of $150,000 at Laneí’ End near Versailles, Ky., and as the sire of Horse of the Year Curlin, was last year’s leading sire in North America with progeny earnings of more than $14 million.
On a single day at Belmont Park last September, the stallion sired three grade I winners: Curlin in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, English Channel in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic, and Fabulous Strike in the Vosburgh Stakes.
Wilderness Song, also bred and raced by Sam-Son Farms, was a millionaire racehorse who raced in the same year as her Hall of Fame stablemate, Dance Smartly.
A daughter of Wild Again, Wilderness Song’s major triumphs included the grade I Spinster Stakes at Keeneland becoming the first grade I winner for Sam-Son Farms. She was voted Canada’s champion older mare in 1992 and won 15 of 37 races.
Wilderness Song is currently a member of the Sam-Son broodmare band.