01/08/2014 12:00AM

2013 Eclipse Awards: She's a Tiger

photo by: Justin N. Lane

She’s a Tiger holds the dubious distinction of being only the second horse ever to have her number taken down from first in a Breeders’ Cup race. That She’s a Tiger is still a finalist for the Eclipse Award for champion 2-year-old filly speaks well of what she accomplished before the Breeders’ Cup, and should be of at least some consolation to her people.

Nevertheless, the disqualification of She’s a Tiger in the Juvenile Fillies for drifting out late and brushing Ria Antonia had to be a tough pill to swallow for owners Mark Dedomenico, Allen Aldrich, Lisa Hernandez, Stuart Downey, and Phillip Lebherz, and trainer Jeff Bonde. Especially so since it was a borderline call – the decision by the Santa Anita stewards was a majority one, not a unanimous one – and considering that if the call had gone She’s a Tiger’s way, it might have taken all the mystery out of this divisional championship.

“I thought I rode the best filly,” Gary Stevens, She’s a Tiger’s jockey, said right after the Juvenile Fillies. “We made some contact. (Ria Antonia) was getting really tired and it may have made it look more severe. My mare didn’t even react to it. Tough call for them to have to make up there.”

She’s a Tiger was best several times in 2013, showing a consistency during an ambitious campaign that eluded many of her contemporaries. A daughter of Tale of the Cat-Shandra Smiles, by Cahill Road, bred in Kentucky by Dr. Rodney Orr, and purchased for $150,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale, She’s a Tiger was a runaway winner of her debut in June at Pleasanton, and from that point on, she competed strictly in stakes events.

After winning the Landaluce at Betfair Hollywood Park in July, She’s a Tiger was a narrowly beaten second in the Grade 2 Sorrento at Del Mar in early August in her third start. Blinkers were added to She’s a Tiger’s equipment for her next outing in late August, the Del Mar Debutante, which was to be the first of three straight Grade 1 appearances that would conclude her campaign. The blinkers had the desired effect, as after contesting a fast early pace, She’s a Tiger held with grim determination to prevail.

“She got herself beat [in the Sorrento],” Bonde said right after the Debutante. “She ran spotty. The blinkers made a huge difference.

“I think she’ll get better going two turns,” Stevens added at the time. “She’s got a stride that’s a mile long.”

She’s a Tiger got her chance to go two turns in the Chandelier Stakes in late September, Santa Anita’s prep for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. And though she was nailed in the shadow of the wire, she ran valiantly in defeat, almost succeeding in making an aggressive move to break the race open into the far turn stand up. She’s a Tiger was also aggressive in the Juvenile Fillies, setting a strong early pace, and yet still found the reserves to resist when challenged in the late stages.

She’s a Tiger is the best horse campaigned by Dedomenico since Blind Luck, a six-time Grade 1 stakes winner and the Eclipse Award-winning champion 3-year-old filly of 2010. Dedomenico also owns and operates the Pegasus Equine Rehabilitation and Training Center near Seattle, where Stevens began exercising horses before his comeback in early 2013.

She’s a Tiger’s success is also special for Bonde, as she is a three-quarter sister to Smiling Tiger. Bonde trained Smiling Tiger during a multiple Grade 1 stakes-winning career that saw him finish third in two editions of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.