Updated on 09/17/2011 1:23PM

Lion Tamer swoops past dueling front-runners

Bill Straus/Keeneland
Lion Tamer gets his third straight victory in the Grade 2, $250,250 Commonwealth Breeders' Cup at Keeneland.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Two hours before one lion got eaten up late, another got his prey. Whereas Lion Heart was passed in the final yards by The Cliff's Edge in the Blue Grass Stakes, Lion Tamer was able to notch his third straight victory when he rolled past a pair of dueling front-runners to capture the 18th running of the Grade 2, $250,250 on the Blue Grass undercard.

With Mike Smith skillfully getting Lion Tamer to relax several lengths off the pace, Marino Marini led Private Horde through honest fractions of 22.63 and 45.20 seconds. While keeping his mount outside and free of traffic, Smith nudged Lion Tamer closer to the front in the turn, and after drawing abreast of the leaders just inside the eighth pole, the colt gradually edged away to prevail by three-quarters of a length over Private Horde.

Lion Tamer returned $4.80 as the favorite in the Commonwealth BC after finishing seven furlongs in 1:23.14 over a fast track. Private Horde (9-2) held second by a half-length over Marino Marini (8-5), who was followed by Scrimshaw, Christine's Outlaw, and Saint Waki.

"I was happy with my position early, because the two horses I was afraid of hooked up early," Smith said.

Lion Tamer, owned by Michael Tabor and trained by Todd Pletcher, was a fringe contender for the Kentucky Derby last year but ran poorly in the Lane's End and Blue Grass stakes before being turned out. The 4-year-old colt returned after 8 1/2 months to easily win a Jan. 28 allowance at Gulfstream Park, then won the Grade 2 Richter Scale Breeders' Cup Handicap at Gulfstream in his most recent start.

Lion Tamer, a Kentucky-bred by Will's Way, is a prime candidate to run back in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Handicap on the May 1 Kentucky Derby undercard. On Saturday, assistant Tristan Berry filled in for trainer Todd Pletcher, who was in New York to saddle Value Plus for the Wood Memorial.

Soaring Free takes Shakertown

Also Saturday, Soaring Free ($3.40), flawlessly ridden by Shane Sellers, barely missed setting a course record when he drew off from 34-1 shot Chosen Chief to win the $115,100 Shakertown Stakes.

Soaring Free, making his first start since a fifth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Mile last fall, finished 5 1/2 furlongs in a blistering 1:01.78 over a firm grass course, missing the 4-year-old mark by .06 seconds.

Owned by Sam-Son Farm and trained by Mark Frostad, Soaring Free broke sharply to force the pace from outside of Chosen Chief before asserting his class late. Banned in Boston, a 29-1 shot, rallied late to take third in the field of 12 older turf sprinters.