02/16/2011 5:06PM

Smiling Tiger earns spot in San Carlos

Benoit & Associates
Smiling Tiger, Russell Baze up, wins the Ancient Title.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Smiling Tiger’s latest workout has convinced trainer Jeff Bonde that the 4-year-old deserves a start in Saturday’s $150,000 San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita.

The winner of two Grade 1 races last year, Smiling Tiger zipped five furlongs in 58.40 seconds at Santa Anita last Saturday, the fastest of 60 recorded works at the distance. Sunday, Bonde did not list Smiling Tiger as a probable runner, but by Wednesday, when entries were taken for the San Carlos, Bonde had reversed his decision. Smiling Tiger was in the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap over seven furlongs.

“He worked as good as a horse could work,” Bonde said.

Smiling Tiger will make his third start of the meeting in the San Carlos. So far, the results have been mixed. He was second, beaten a nose by Twirling Candy, in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes over seven furlongs on Dec. 26. Twirling Candy set a track record of 1:19.70 in that race.

Smiling Tiger followed with a disappointing third in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes Stakes on Jan. 22 as the 2-5 favorite. He was third on the backstretch, farther back than normal in the early stages, and was beaten 4 1/2 lengths by Euroears.

It is one of the few blemishes on a 12-race career that includes four stakes wins, including two Grade 1 races last year – the Bing Crosby at Del Mar and Ancient Title at Hollywood Park – and a third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs last November. Remarkably, Smiling Tiger has never been worse than third.

The presence of Smiling Tiger adds depth to the San Carlos, which has drawn a field of six, including two runners trained by Bob Baffert – Mythical Power, the winner of the Grade 3 Texas Mile last April; and Ventana, who won the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Handicap here last April.

Captain Cherokee, Supreme Summit and Stacy’s Hope are the other entrants. Supreme Summit, second in the Ancient Title, has not started since finishing fourth in the BC Sprint.

Juvenile sprints start with claimmers

Races for juveniles over two furlongs will begin on the week of March 23, and will be limited to maiden claimers through the end of the Santa Anita meeting on April 17, Harlow said earlier this week.

The claiming prices will range from $50,000 to $100,000 and would be a change from the format in previous years when maiden special weight races were commonplace.

“We’ll try to mix it up a little bit,” Harlow said. “In the last three or four weeks of the meeting, we’ll try to fill two a week.”

Harlow said it is unlikely there will be any 2-year-old races over 4 1/2 furlongs before the end of the meeting. “It seems that 4 1/2 furlongs in mid-April when Hollywood Park starts is the right time for that,” he said.

Hollywood Park is tentatively scheduled to open its spring-summer meeting on April 21.

Last year, there were five two-furlong races for 2-year-olds at the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. None of the five winners have won since, but Rockin Heather later placed in three minor stakes.

◗ Training on the main track was canceled on Wednesday because of morning rain.

Harlow said approximately a half-inch of rain had fallen by 7:30 a.m., with another quarter-inch expected. Rain subsided by late morning.

Activity was limited to the infield training track.