A return to Betfair Hollywood Park helped Smiling Tiger end a six race losing streak in the $100,000 Vernon O. Underwood Stakes Sunday.
Fresh off a third place finish in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Sprint Nov. 3, the 5-year-old Hold That Tiger horse rallied outside under jockey Rafael Bejarano in the final quarter of a mile to defeat 7-1 shot Private Zone and five others.
The victory for Smiling Tiger, the 17-10 favorite in the Grade III, was his fourth in five tries over Cushion Track. He completed the six furlongs in 1:11.24 while winning by one length.
Owned by Allen Klein and Philip Lebherz and trained by Jeff Bonde, Smiling Tiger has won nine of 23 and pushed his earnings to $1,480,704. He paid $5.40, $3.20 and $2.20.
The Underwood was the fourth graded victory at Betfair Hollywood Park for the Kentucky bred, who is out of the Cahill Road mare Shandra Smiles. He won the Grade III Lazaro Barrera Memorial in 2010, the Grade I Ancient Title during the 2010 Oak Tree season and the Grade I Triple Bend Handicap – his most recent win prior to Sunday – July 2, 2011.
“I knew the front two (Smash and Private Zone) were going to the lead, so I just wanted to make sure my horse broke well because sometimes he doesn’t,’’ said Bejarano after his first Underwood win. “Once I broke well, I was just waiting and waiting on the outside until the stretch. The outside of the track has been better so it worked out really well.’’
Bonde indicated Smiling Tiger’s races will be spaced in the upcoming year and the primary goal is to take him to Dubai in March.
Making his first appearance in a graded event in the United States, Private Zone finished a half-length in front of 7-2 second choice Capital Account.
Part of the pace after breaking on top from his outside post, Private Zone, a Canadian bred, put away Smash and Comma to the Top, but couldn’t contain the winner approaching the finish. He returned $7.40 and $4.40 while the show price on Capital Account, who finished a nose in front of Comma to the Top, was $2.60.
Making his first start since finishing off the board in the Grade I Malibu Stakes last Dec. 26, Smash wound up fifth and Bank the Eight trailed. Fast Bullet was scratched.
Trainer Doug O’Neill tripled Sunday, taking the second with Mia Isabel, the fourth with Ricpretentiousgal and the fifth with Cloudy Moon.
A 10-1 shot against California bred 2-year-old maiden fillies, Cloudy Moon was ridden by Orlando Mojica, Jr., the first victory at Betfair Hollywood Park for the veteran rider.
There were two winning tickets in the Pick Six. Each was worth $248,087. One was purchased through the Lewiston, Maine hub and the other through twinspires.com
Racing resumes Thursday. Post time is 12:30 p.m. Track gates at Betfair Hollywood Park will open at 10 a.m. for simulcasts.
The Hollywood Park Casino will be open for dark day simulcasts Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Admission is free and simulcasts begin at approximately 10:15 a.m.