07/23/2011 1:44PM

Del Mar: Few seem willing to challenge Smiling Tiger in Bing Crosby

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Benoit & Associates
Smiling Tiger, winning the Triple Bend Handicap last time out, is being pointed to next Sunday's Bing Crosby.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Smiling Tiger will face a small field when he attempts to defend his title, and win his fourth stakes of 2011, in the $250,000 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar next Sunday.

Friday, Smiling Tiger had his final major workout for the Grade 1, six-furlong Bing Crosby, working five furlongs in 1:00.80 under jockey Joel Rosario at Del Mar. Trained by Jeff Bonde for Alan Klein and Philip Lebherz, Smiling Tiger won the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park on July 2, his most recent start.

“He’s doing great,” Bonde said. “He continues to train well.”

The presence of Smiling Tiger will most likely hold down the Bing Crosby field. Other candidates include Amazombie, Carbonite, Euroears, Streakin’ Mohican, and possibly Color of Courage.

Smiling Tiger won his first Grade 1 race in the 2010 Bing Crosby, and later won the Grade 1 Ancient Title at Hollywood Park and finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs.

Action hot at the claim box

Claiming activity reached a frenzied pace in the first three days of the Del Mar meeting. Through Friday, after 26 races were run, there had been 35 claims, and several instances in which numerous claims were placed on individual horses.

In Friday’s third race, for $8,000 claimers over seven furlongs, there were 19 claims for Veillit, who finished sixth. The new trainer is Dean Greenman. In Friday’s sixth race, six of the 10 runners in a $10,000 claiming event changed stables.

By comparison, there were 141 claims at the 2010 meeting, 158 in 2009 and 204 in 2008. Claiming activity increased on a year-to-year basis at the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting that ended on July 17.

Trainer Adam Kitchingman claimed two horses in the first three days at Del Mar. He said higher purses, and the appeal of racing at Del Mar, has made buying race-ready horses more attractive to owners, some of whom have not been as active in the sport in recent years because of the economic downturn.

“Everyone wants to win at Del Mar,” he said.

Kitchingman has concentrated on racing 2-year-olds in the past, but has become more active with claims. He has 25 horses in training and has been seeking to build his stable.

“I was down for a long time and I’m starting to build back up,” he said. “It’s a result of working harder and making more calls. It’s still tough but not like it was three or four years ago.”

Heleonor Rugby will keep facing Cal-breds

Heleonor Rugby, the winner of the $98,000 California Thoroughbred Breeders Association Stakes on Friday, will stay in the statebred 2-year-old filly division for the $100,000 Generous Portion on Aug. 31, trainer A.C. Avila said.

“She’s a Cal-bred and we’ll take advantage of that,” Avila said.

Heleonor Rugby won the four-runner CTBA Stakes by three-quarters of a length over Willa B Awesome for her first stakes win. Owned by Luiz Fernando Dannemann, Heleonor Rugby, by Tribal Rule, has won 2 of 4 starts and $110,900.

In the CTBA Stakes, Heleonor Rugby gave jockey Christian Santiago Reyes his first stakes win since Twice the Appeal won the Sunland Park Derby in March.

◗ Zazu, the winner of the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks in her last start, worked six furlongs in 1:14.60 on Saturday, preparing for a start in the $500,000 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 20. Owned by Jerry and Ann Moss, Zazu is trained by John Sadler, who timed the filly in 1:14.40.