07/12/2011 2:14PM

Bonde's good year could soon turn even better

Benoit Photo
Smiling Tiger's long-term goal is the Breeders' Cup Sprint, a race in which he finished third last year.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The dollar figures are steadily escalating as are the number of stakes wins. Halfway through the 2011 season, trainer Jeff Bonde is on course for a record-breaking season.

Through Sunday, Bonde’s California-based stable had won 36 races from 157 starters and earned $1,813,634. He has saddled 10 stakes winners. Within a few months, his personal best of $2.4 million in earnings set in 1999 could easily be surpassed.

The Bonde stable may be on the verge of $2 million in earnings this weekend if the diminutive Cambina wins Saturday’s $250,000 Hollywood Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on turf.

“She’s a real fun horse,” he said. “She’s a little thing but she comes to run.”

Add a group of unraced 2-year-olds, and Bonde, 56, is ready for the rest of the summer and fall.

“We haven’t cut loose our top ones yet,” he said

What’s missing is the stable’s first champion, a goal that may be accomplished this year. Bonde’s top horse is Smiling Tiger, the winner of the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 2, and stakes at Oaklawn Park and Santa Anita earlier this year. Third in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs, Smiling Tiger is being pointed for the same race at Churchill this year, with two expected preps at Del Mar. A title for champion sprinter is possible.

In the short-term, there is Cambina, who is seeking her fourth career stakes win in the Grade 1 American Oaks, which is run over 1 1/4 miles on turf. Owned by a partnership, Cambina was stakes-placed in Ireland last year, and joined Bonde’s stable over the winter. She has won half of her six starts and $227,490 this year, with the wins coming in successive starts in the Grade 3 La Habra Stakes, China Doll Stakes, and Grade 2 Providencia Stakes at Santa Anita in the winter and spring.

Cambina, an Irish-bred filly by Hawk Wing, was third in two starts on turf at Hollywood Park in the spring, the Grade 3 Senorita over a mile on May 7 and the Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap over 1 1/8 miles on June 11, when her late rally missed by a half-length. The American Oaks will be her first start over 1 1/4 miles, a distance that Bonde thinks she can handle.

“She’s definitely a European-stamina bred horse,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if she can run that far. She’s got a real good turn of foot.”

There are Breeders’ Cup aspirations for Cambina, too. Last week, the partnership that owns the filly paid $25,000 to make her eligible for the Breeders’ Cup program, Bonde said.

Smiling Tiger has given Bonde the first three Grade 1 wins of his career. Owned by Philip Lebherz and Alan Klein, Smiling Tiger has two goals for Del Mar – a defense of his win in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes over six furlongs on July 31 and the Grade 1 Pat O’Brien Stakes over seven furlongs on Aug. 28, a race in which he was third last year.

Unlike 2010, when Smiling Tiger won the Grade 1 Ancient Title Stakes at Hollywood Park in October, there is not likely to be an autumn prep for the BC Sprint this year for the 4-year-old.

“We’re planning to run twice at Del Mar and then freshen him,” he said. “We’re going to do it different. That’s when he runs best.”

That was on display in the seven-furlong Triple Bend, when Smiling Tiger led throughout and won by 3 1/4 lengths in his first start since May 7.

“He ran a huge race,” Bonde said.

Bonde credits his stable’s current success to acquiring better horses as yearlings.

“We’ve worked hard to hit the sales the last two or three years,” he said.

Plus, Bonde said there are fewer personal distractions. A few years he went through a divorce, which he described as “ugly. It took four years, and $800,000 in attorney fees,” he said.

Through the summer, Bonde will be based primarily at Del Mar, though he keeps a stable at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in his hometown of Pleasanton, within striking range of Golden Gate Fields and the northern fair circuit. He had two stakes winners at the Alameda County Fair meeting there earlier this month – Slew the Man in the Alamedan Handicap and Excessive Passion in the Sam Whiting Handicap. Excessive Passion will be stabled at Del Mar. Slew the Man may try the $200,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs on Aug. 21.

Bonde’s 3-year-old division is not as bright for the summer. Twice the Appeal, who won the Sunland Park Derby in March and was 10th in the Kentucky Derby; and Sway Away, who 12th in the Preakness Stakes, are both sidelined. Sway Away recently had a bone chip removed from a knee, following a win in an allowance race at Hollywood Park on June 19. They are expected to return to racing by the end of the year.

By then, a few of the 2-year-olds may have emerged on the California or national scene. Colts Any Given Saturday, Eddington, Flashy Bullet, Gone West, and Trippi have caught the eye. They will start at Del Mar, shortly after the meeting begins next Wednesday.

“I’ll throw some out there right away,” Bonde said.

For Bonde, those 2-year-olds, and the established stakes horses, can make 2011 a memorable year.