01/15/2014 2:36PM

Jay Hovdey: She's a Tiger part-owner not fretting over Juvenile Filly vote

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Barbara D. Livingston
In what is expected to be one of the closest contests in the Eclipse Awards, She's a Tiger (right) and Ria Antonia are the leading contenders for champion Juvenile Filly.

Now that the Golden Globes ceremony of Hollywood self-flagellation is finished, and Jacqueline Bisset has concluded her acceptance speech, we can move on to the more important business of passing out the Eclipse Awards.

The dinner will be held Saturday night at Gulfstream Park. Racing fans without a ticket to the dance will be in the room courtesy of live coverage on HRTV and DRF.com. This means they will a) have access to better food service at home, b) enjoy a broader range of wardrobe choices, and c) be able to change the channel to the Screen Actors Guild Awards and pull for Bruce Dern, the Wise Dan of his particular profession. (Watch “Silent Running” again, or for the first time. Thank me later.)

[Eclipse Awards 2013: Watch Saturday's Eclipse Awards dinner live]

There will be suspense in a few of the categories, although when the vote totals are finally revealed even the closest contests, in terms of public discussion, usually turn out to be one-sided. Still, it will come as a surprise if the decision of the 249 voters in the category of champion 2-year-old filly does not end up a real squeaker between Ria Antonia and She’s a Tiger.

This would be only fitting. When last seen in public the two were scrapping down to the wire in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. She’s a Tiger finished first by a nose but then, on a split decision, she was disqualified for interference late in the game.

The jubilation of owners Ron Paolucci and Christopher Dunn at Santa Anita that day was mirrored by the shattering sense of loss experienced by the people in the She’s a Tiger partnership. Words are inadequate to describe how Dr. Mark Dedomenico, Allen Aldrich, Stuart Downey, Lisa Hernandez, and Phil Lebherz felt after winning – then losing – the $2 million race.

“I think we got a bad deal, but we’ve just got to let it go,” Dedomenico said from his Pegasus Equine Training and Rehabilitation center near Seattle. “It’s too hard to carry that kind of thing around with you for too long.”

If anyone would know the effects of a stress-related load, it’s Dedomenico. In his role as a cardiovascular surgeon he was among the inventors and developers of heart bypass surgery. When Dedomenico dons another hat, he is the founder of 20/20 Lifestyles, dedicated to promoting healthy habits in diet and exercise that would reduce the necessity for procedures like heart bypass surgery.

Dedomenico also has survived 40 years in the Thoroughbred business – a stress test if ever there was one – which means he should be able to handle the drama of opening a sealed envelope that might or might not contain the name of She’s a Tiger on Saturday night. In January 2011, he took the stage as a winner, when his Blind Luck was voted champion 3-year-old filly of 2010.

“I have no idea who’s going to get it, but we’re going anyway,” Dedomenico said. “We need to be there because she’s done such a good job for us this year.”

If nothing else, She’s a Tiger was the most tenacious, consistent filly at the highest possible levels during 2013. She ran six times from June to November, finishing first four times (including the DQ) and second twice. The only time she did not have another horse in the picture was in her debut at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, when she won a maiden race by nine lengths.

“We ran at Pleasanton because one of the owners lived there,” Dedomenico said. “I like to be a part of a syndicate like this. It gets people involved and excited about the sport. That’s what racing’s all about, isn’t it?”

She’s a Tiger was ridden in her most recent starts by Gary Stevens, who is among the Eclipse Award finalists in the jockey category after his outstanding comeback season at the age of 50, after a seven-year retirement. Stevens prepared for his return with an intense fitness program at one of Dedomenico’s Pro Sports Club facilities, along with time spent on horseback at Pegasus.

“Gary did that on his own,” Dedomenico said. “He lost a lot of weight, got himself in shape, and got his head right. We’d be glad to take a little of the responsibility, though.”

As far as that goes, Stevens shouldered the responsibility for the Breeders’ Cup disqualification, which ended up almost too close to call.

“We’ll let that slide,” said Dedomenico, spoken like someone with 40 years in the game.

Soon after the Breeders’ Cup, She’s a Tiger was sent north for a break between seasons under the care of Mike Puhich, Dedomenico’s resident trainer at the Pegasus facility.

“I get to see her every day,” Dedomenico said. “She’s doing great, and now she’s about ready to go back down to Jeff.”

That would be Jeff Bonde, who also trained She’s a Tiger’s accomplished half-brother Smiling Tiger, a winner of nearly $1.5 million. Bonde will set his sights on a spring campaign targeting the Kentucky Oaks, a race won by Blind Luck. Dedomenico was asked if She’s a Tiger has the potential to follow in her footsteps.

“She sure does,” he replied. “They’re the same type in a lot of ways. She’s a Tiger handles everything well, does whatever you ask of her. She’s just a grand horse.”

Maybe even a champion.

Daniel Alvarado More than 1 year ago
I had She's a Tiger on my win ticket on BC day and needless to say, I was pretty pissed off that the stewards took her down...it was minimal contact. Anyway, she's a nice filly, she definitely deserves to win the award, but I think she's gonna have problems going long.
Forego137 More than 1 year ago
She's A Tiger sure was that and IMO has done more than any 2yr.old in the country to deserve the award. I just hope she does continue to improve in her 3yr.old season and not fizz out.
John More than 1 year ago
If noticed that if you critisize DRF for this INSANE marketing plan of "charge to read " its pulled down in a short period, I wonder if the NSA is behind all the freaking mystery ! DRF has been bad for the fans for the last 3-4 years, price increases year after year, terible writing and now, the AUDACITY to charge to read this mumbo jumbo ! Not on my dollar boys !
Boyd Cord More than 1 year ago
maybe they're close to going out of business. I don't buy the programs because I only play 1 or 2 tracks on Saturday. No need for the 5-6 track programs at $7.50. Plus I'm not smart enough to read all those races and find good value. I would pay to watch video of their best handicappers listing the best plays for the weekend. Not looking for that 2-5 shot but also don't want some jokester giving me some "LIVE" 20-1 shot who has no shot. They have to be the best.
Bio More than 1 year ago
Has anyone been able to open the PP's for the race of the day?
Mitchell Givner More than 1 year ago
I'm routing for my buddy Ron's horse. RA was best when it counted the most! Good luck RA and to Ron P!
David G. More than 1 year ago
Her overall record speaks for itself. Form a bull ring to poly-track to going two turns there was no other two year old in 2013, male or female, more versatile than her. Her real name should've been "She's a Fighter" Good luck Saturday night to all of her connections. Well deserved
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
Pleasanton is the oldest track in the state and is not a bullring.I believe its a 1 mile oval
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
That said , I was there that day and it was the equivalent of a walkover.
rahman Williams More than 1 year ago
She was the best horse all year. She is well deserving of the eclipse for juvenile filly.
Lefty More than 1 year ago
Well, I know this horse isn't fretting over it either! None of the horses are, they have no idea! However, if they did what would they say!
Lawrence Vaccarelli More than 1 year ago
you know you read what the dr. says about the race and the game...then you read and listen what Ron Paolucci says after the race....it really makes it hard to not pull for the doc...BUT RA WAS BEST... on BC day...no ifs an's or but's........
ghost2_ More than 1 year ago
They crossed the wire together in the BC. Ria Antonia proved she could throw in a good race on occasion, but She's a Tiger proved that she could run a good race every single time. Plus the DQ is controversial (though I agree with it). RA was not clearly superior on the day. And that was ONE race. RA should not win the championship when she ran so poorly in other starts, while Tiger always ran very well.
hialeah More than 1 year ago
Given that Ria Antonia only crossed the wire first in a MSW: She's a Tiger could win on points. But we (should) all know how that can go. Still, going for the Full Nebraska would be warranted this w/e. Thanks.