05/21/2010 11:00PM

Smiling Tiger lives up to Bonde's expectations


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - After Smiling Tiger's narrow third-place finish in the Harry Henson Stakes at Hollywood Park in April, his first start in more than seven months, trainer Jeff Bonde displayed nothing but confidence about the colt's future.

His outlook was only enhanced in Saturday's $100,000 Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes. Smiling Tiger led throughout the Grade 3 race over seven furlongs, his first graded stakes win, holding off a late threat from 5-2 favorite Concord Point to win by a half-length.

"He's always given us a lot of confidence," Bonde said. "We took a chance last time to get a race in him. He probably needed the race. He was more professional today."

Ridden by Victor Espinoza, Smiling Tiger ($7.60) set an early pace of 22.43 and 44.78 seconds, leading by a half-length to a length. Smiling Tiger had a one-length lead at the eighth pole and was fully extended to win. Even with Concord Point looming on the outside in early stretch, Bonde thought his colt would stay in front.

"I was confident he'd run a good race," Bonde said. "He seemed to run strongly."

Owned by Alan Klein and Philip Lebherz, Smiling Tiger was timed in a quick 1:21.34. By Hold That Tiger, Smiling Tiger has won 3 of 6 starts and $213,864.

Concord Point, making his stakes debut, held second, finishing 1 1/2 lengths in front of 9-1 Domonation in the field of nine 3-year-olds.

Smiling Tiger and Concord Point are likely to meet again, in the $100,000 Affirmed Handicap over 1 1-16 miles here on June 19.