Smiling Tiger, who took Thursday’s Grade 3 Count
Fleet Handicap at Oaklawn
is likely to train up to a start in the Grade 1, $500,000 Metropolitan Handicap
at Belmont Park
on May 30, trainer Jeff Bonde said.
“That’s the target,” said Bonde. “It’s a major race that
could help his value as a stallion.”
Owned by Lebherz Racing and Alan Klein, the 4-year-old son
of Hold That Tiger has five graded stakes victories to his credit and has won
two straight, having also taken the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita
on February 19. As a 3-year-old, Smiling Tiger more than held his own against
older horses, winning the Grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar and Grade 1 Ancient Title at Hollywood Park
and finishing third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs.
Earlier in his career, Smiling Tiger would set or race just
off the pace, but in his last two starts has closed strongly in the stretch, a
trait Bonde instilled in the colt in the morning.
“He has really learned to relax, and it’s enhanced his
game,” said Bonde. “He’s starting to learn his lessons.”
Bonde believes the new running style could help Smiling
Tiger, who has never raced beyond seven furlongs, negotiate the Metropolitan’s
“I believe the distance is within his grasp, based on the
way he ran yesterday,” said Bonde.