02/17/2011 5:14PM

Smiling Tiger formidable, but no lock in San Carlos


ARCADIA, Calif. – A Grade 1 winner who blazed the second-fastest seven furlongs in track history might be considered a cinch in a seven-furlong Grade 2 at Santa Anita.

Smiling Tiger, however, is no cinch Saturday. One month after relinquishing his title as California’s top sprinter by finishing a dull third in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes, Smiling Tiger tries to restore his reputation in the $150,000 San Carlos Handicap.

“My horse is good, and that’s when you run them,” confident trainer Jeff Bonde stated.

Bonde attributes Smiling Tiger’s recent loss to a sluggish start from the rail. Smiling Tiger was uncomfortably buried from the get-go. Saturday, he breaks from post 5 with a new pilot.

Joel Rosario replaces Northern California-based Russell Baze.

“Russell has done a good job, but it’s tough to get down here,” Bonde said. “And it was a last-minute [decision to run].”

Bonde originally planned to skip the San Carlos with Smiling Tiger.

“He has continued to train very well and has not been raced that hard,” Bonde explained.

Smiling Tiger, 5 for 12, is making his third start of the meet. He finished second Dec. 26 in the Malibu, run in a record 1:19.70.

Smiling Tiger runs best when he races in the clear, which should be his trip Saturday. From post 5, he can either make the lead or press Captain Cherokee, the Palos Verdes runner-up.

Smiling Tiger can rebound if he is not tuckered out in his third start of the meet. That is one reason Supreme Summit’s trainer Mike Puype said he believes his horse can win his first start since a fast-closing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

“Smiling Tiger ran a hard race in the Malibu, and a hard race in the Palos Verdes,” Puype said. “If he is loose at seven-eighths, I might run him down anyway.”

Smiling Tiger defeated Supreme Summit twice in fall, but Puype said, “Six furlongs is just a bit short for him.”

Supreme Summit, 3 for 13, was specifically trained for a return in the San Carlos.

“My biggest concern is what kind of track we get to run on,” Puype said.

Rain is forecast.

Bob Baffert-trained Mythical Power and Ventana drew posts 1 and 2.

“The draw was horrible,” Baffert said.

Ventana adds blinkers for his second start back.

“I want him to get away from the gate a little better; his first couple steps are kind of slow,” Baffert said.

Mythical Power breaks from the rail. He won his Jan. 27 allowance comeback from the inside post. Beyond the class Saturday, there is another difference.

“This race, it’s going to be mud,” Baffert said.