12/02/2012 8:46PM

Hollywood Park: Smiling Tiger snaps losing streak in Vernon Underwood

Benoit & Associates
Smiling Tiger, with Rafael Bejarano aboard, wins his first race since July 2011 in the Grade 3 Vernon Underwood.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Smiling Tiger ended a six-race losing streak over the last 17 months with a convincing win in Sunday’s $100,000 Vernon Underwood Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park.

The Grade 3 Underwood was Smiling Tiger’s eighth career stakes win, and his second start after undergoing a summertime operation to improve his breathing. In the first start of his return from that minor procedure, Smiling Tiger finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 3.

“Smiling Tiger is back,” co-owner Philip Lebherz said in the winner’s circle on Sunday.

In the Underwood, Smiling Tiger had an ideal trip under jockey Rafael Bejarano. Sent off as the 8-5 favorite, Smiling Tiger was fourth on the backstretch, stalking a pace of 22.84 and 46.34 seconds set by Private Zone.

Bejarano moved Smiling Tiger to the outside in early stretch, and wore down the leaders, taking over in the final furlong.

Smiling Tiger ($5.40) won by a length over Private Zone, finishing six furlongs in 1:11.24. The synthetic main track at Hollywood Park produced slow times over the weekend following three days of intermittent rain.

Jeff Bonde, who trains Smiling Tiger, was delighted to see a speed duel develop.

“Everything worked out well,” he said. “A couple of guys wanted to play early.”

Private Zone, the lone 3-year-old in the field of six, held second, finishing a half-length in front of Capital Account, who had the best finish of trainer Bob Baffert’s three runners. Comma to the Top finished fourth, followed by other two Baffert-trained runners – Smash and Bank the Eight.

Baffert scratched Fast Bullet in favor of an allowance race on Thursday.

Smiling Tiger races for Lebherz and Alan Klein. A 5-year-old horse, Smiling Tiger had not won before Sunday since the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap here in July 2011. By Hold That Tiger, Smiling Tiger has won 9 of 23 starts and $1,480,704.

Bonde and Lebherz said a long-term goal is the Golden Shaheen Sprint in Dubai in late March.


John More than 1 year ago
Hey DAVE, you are right , the way this freaking track has been playing, Private Zone ran a monster race to hang on for 2nd . They are just gettiong a handle on how to run him. Ive bet him the last 2 times, he certainly is a trier ! Smiling Tiger looked back !........but Dubai ruins too many horse's, lets just stay at home and win the $$$ here ! Can we get rid of this "POLY-CRAP" or whatever they call it. I saw more horses pull up or not handle this artificial crap over the weekend than all meet at Santa Anita......lets just all get on board (Del Mar -Hollywood) dirt is the way to go, rain or shine !
Jordan More than 1 year ago
Smiling Tiger's career looked pretty much over after he was whipped in the Triple Bend this summer, a race he had turned in a career best effort when winning the year before. I thought running Smiling Tiger in the BC Sprint was a hail-mary, but clearly the connections knew best, and believed this procedure had turned things around. It's good to have Smiling Tiger back running well. I've always thought he was one of the top sprinters in the country, and 3rds in the BC Sprint at Churchill in 2010 and at Santa Anita this year back this up. I now count 7 graded stakes wins, 3 being of the grade 1 variety. And 2 BC Sprint placings isn't bad either.
Guy More than 1 year ago
Think Flores will be back on Capitol Account next time that horse runs? Paging Mike Smith
Mark More than 1 year ago
Yet another excuse? Couldnt possibly be the horse just isnt good enough.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
me thinky the jocks room they getty instructions mixed up, you know? Mebbe they got no riders no more?
Dave More than 1 year ago
Was more impressed with Private Zone in this race. He put away two challenges and was still very game through the lane to only lose by a length.
chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Ya gotta love Tiger! And did Boffo nearly miss the board?