01/22/2011 9:00PM

Euroears uses gate speed to outrun Smiling Tiger in Palos Verdes

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BENOIT PHOTO
Mike Smith guides Euroears to a wire-to-wire 9-1 upset in the Palos Verdes.

ARCADIA, Calif.Bob Baffert has been in the Thoroughbred world for more than 20 years now, but that old Quarter Horse mentality sure came in handy on Saturday at Santa Anita. Baffert thought his best chance against heavily favored Smiling Tiger in the Grade 2, $150,000 Palos Verdes Stakes was to take the track from Smiling Tiger with the speedy Euroears, then hope Euroears could outrun him, or stablemate Ventana would run them all down.

Euroears broke like a shot, Smiling Tiger got off a little roughly from his inside draw, and Euroears never looked back. He led from start to finish in the six-furlong race while recording a 9-1 upset.

 

Euroears ($20) outran 28-1 shot Captain Cherokee to win by 2 1/4 lengths, with Smiling Tiger another 2 1/4 lengths back in third. Smiling Tiger, the 2-5 favorite, just did hold off Ventana by a head for the show spot, thus saving the show plungers who risked $134,165 of the $175,502 show pool on him.

 

After setting fractions of 21.56 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 43.47 seconds for a half-mile, Euroears kept on rolling under jockey Mike Smith while completing six furlongs on the fast main track in 1:07.23. Smith got the mount because Bejarano, who had his choice of the Baffert horses, went for Ventana.

 

“The whole game plan was to get out in front of Smiling Tiger,” Baffert said. “I wanted to be on the lead. He likes to run that way. Mike did a good job. He got away from there.”

 

Smiling Tiger, meanwhile, was acting up in the gate before the start, then had an assistant starter grab his ear to keep him steady, according to jockey Russell Baze.

 

“He didn’t get away at all,” Baze said. “I don’t know if it was the rail or getting ‘eared’ in the gate. He was throwing a wing-ding.”

 

Euroears, 7, was making his first start for Baffert. He had been trained previously by Bret Calhoun. The Palos Verdes was his first start since July.

 

“He was training super,” Baffert said. “This horse was cut out to be a really good horse.”

 

Euroears has now won 9 of 17 starts. He is owned by Jim and Marilyn Helzer.