In 1975, he had an initial brush with fame when his Near the High Sea, a rank outsider in the Queen’s Plate, finished second behind the prohibitive favourite and future inductee into Canada’s Hall of Fame, L’Enjoleur.
It wasn’t so much that Tiller’s fast start had endeared him to Canadian racing fans, but rather his prolonged brilliance. For 19 seasons, Tiller has ranked in the top five in wins. He has also won 50 or more races for seven consecutive years. Tiller was Woodbine’s leading trainer in 1994, 1997, 2001 and 2003, the year his horses earned just over $4 million. Tiller was runner-up for seasonal honours in Ontario in 1991, 1993, 1994 and was second at Woodbine in 1998, 2002, 2004 and 2005.
Initially, Tiller won the admiration of other horsepeople for his claiming acumen. Yet one of Tiller’s most noted skills to emerge over time has been searching out and acquiring inexpensive yearlings and turning them into significant achievers. Many of them he has fashioned into champions. His Sovereign Award champions include: Rare Friends, a multiple stakes winner and leading two-year-old colt in 2001, Simply Lovely, the top two-year-old filly of 2004 and Win City, Horse of the Year in 2001 and the champion three-year-old colt with victories in the Prince of Wales, Queenston, Marine, Plate Trial, Col. McLaughlin Stakes and Autumn Handicap.
Some of Tiller’s other significant stakes winners include: Near the High Sea, Domasca Dan, Elated Guy, Talk Back, Brass in Pocket,Winter Garden, Forever Grand, Twisted Wit, Cheap Talk, Top Ten List, Are You Serious, Spread The News, Midnight Shadow, Dancer’s Bajan and Dave The Knave, who was Tiller’s 100th career stakes winner. He has had 108 stakes victories since 1975, including 10 graded victories. Tiller is Woodbine’s winningest trainer since 2000, having recorded 471 victories (22.43 per cent win rate).
He annually achieves significant earnings, a strong winning percentage and an outstanding in-the-money average. For an extended time he has been a fan and media favourite. Born in Amsterdam, Holland, in 1949, Tiller has been a longtime resident of Brampton, Ont.