08/04/2010 3:15PM

Several options open for Smiling Tiger's next

Benoit Photo
Smiling Tiger, winner of the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar, has the Breeders' Cup Sprint as his long-term goal.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Smiling Tiger gave owners Phil Lebherz and Alan Klein and trainer Jeff Bonde their first wins in a Grade 1 race in the Bing Crosby Stakes last weekend. Finding a schedule that gets Smiling Tiger to another Grade 1 race they yearn to win – the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs in November – may take a few weeks.

Wednesday, Bonde said that he and the owners are discussing options for Smiling Tiger’s next start, including two Grade 1 seven-furlong races on Aug. 28 – the $300,000 Pat O’Brien Stakes against older horses here or the $250,000 King’s Bishop Stakes for 3-year-olds at Saratoga. Another race being considered is the $250,000 Ancient Title Breeders’ Cup Stakes over six furlongs against older horses at Santa Anita on Oct. 9.

“The biggest factor is we don’t want to over race him before the Breeders’ Cup,” Bonde said. “The other factor is do we want to run over seven furlongs?”

The Bing Crosby win is the highlight of a 15-year owner-trainer relationship between Lebherz and Bonde. “I bet we’ve had 200 horses,” Lebherz said in the winner’s circle.

These issue of late-summer and autumn race planning moved to the fore for the partners and Bonde after Smiling Tiger led throughout the six-furlong Bing Crosby, finishing 1 1/2 lengths in front of Scenic Blast. Cost of Freedom, the 3-5 favorite, could finish only fifth after a poor start.

The first three finishers may not meet in their next races. Scenic Blast is being considered for the $250,000 Del Mar Mile on turf on Aug. 28. Cost of Freedom is a candidate for the Pat O’Brien. He emerged from the race without incident, trainer John Sadler said.

Earlier this week, Sadler said he had avoided watching the replay of the start.

“As far as what transpired, I didn’t watch it,” he said. “It makes me crazy.”

Surface getting a bit more water

The Polytrack surface at Del Mar is being maintained with the application of more water than in previous years, and has surprised Del Mar’s track superintendent, Richard Tedesco, with the way it has behaved in recent weeks through unseasonably cool weather, he said on Wednesday.

The afternoon temperature rarely exceeded 70 degrees in the first two weeks of the meeting, and is unlikely to do so in the coming days. In past years, the temperature has been in the 80s, and in some cases the 90s, at this time of year.

Tedesco, who is overseeing maintenance of the Del Mar surface for the first time this year, said additional watering, a nightly renovation and a more substantial renovation on Mondays or Tuesdays have been part of the regular work done on the track.

“I’m tweaking it, but I’m not changing the maintenance that was done in the past,” Tedesco said. “In the afternoon, I’m putting more water down.”

Tedesco said the track is “cut” to a depth of three inches and then harrowed between 1 and 4 a.m. each day. On Mondays or Tuesdays, days in which there is no racing, the track is “roto-tilled” once to a depth of four inches to mix the Polytrack materials. Tedesco, who also maintains the Pro-Ride synthetic surface at Santa Anita, said the roto-tilling procedure is designed to eliminate separation of the sand and fibers in the surface.

He said an incident that led to the cancellation of training on July 22 because of an uneven surface was a maintenance mistake.

“That was something I didn’t expect,” Tedesco said. “I don’t know if it was malfunction of the equipment or pilot error. We were good the next day.”