Bishop Court Hill was intent on taking them all the way but favored Tiger, ridden by Eibar Coa, would have none it, overtaking the grade I winner nearing the eighth pole and rolling to victory in the $104,700 Bold Ruler Handicap (gr. III) Saturday at Belmont Park.
The 5-year-old Tiger, plagued with tendon problems throughout his career, was making his stakes debut for trainer James Jerkens and owners Susan and John Moore. He had been out of action for more than 16 months in 2004-05.
"I have to give the Moores a lot of credit," Jerkens said. "A lot of people would have run him for a ham sandwich when he wasn't doing any good. I've got to give Susan (Moore) a lot of credit. She's the only one that would painstakingly put a horse like that away for so long."
Tiger defeated the closing Dark Cheetah by 3 1/2 lengths with the pacesetting Bishop Court Hill 1 3/4 lengths farther back in third. The final time was 1:08 2/5 on fast going.
Tiger has made just eight career starts, but four have come this year, with three wins. The Storm Boot
gelding won an optional allowance/claiming heat on the main track at Aqueduct by more than seven lengths in his last start April 13.
"He showed me in his last race how serious and professional he is," Coa said. "Today, he did everything on his own. He was chasing and caught up to Bishop Court Hill by himself. He wasn't even blowing hard after the race. It was a real impressive effort."
Bishop Court Hill, who upset the seven-furlong Carter Handicap (gr. I) by a neck on a sloppy sealed Aqueduct strip in his last start, shot to the lead from his rail post position under Jose Santos. Bishop Court Hill clicked an opening quarter mile in a blazing :21 25 and the half-mile in :44 while building a two-length lead over Tiger. Pisgah, who set a Delaware Park six-furlong record of 1:07 4/5 in his last start, did not break sharply and found himself chasing the speedsters in third.
Tiger, though, pounced on the outside as they straightened away for the stretch run and took control at the furlong marker, drawing away as Bishop Court Hill tired to third. Dark Cheetah, ridden by Edgar Prado, came home well to take the runner-up spot.
"I thought Pisgah would be out there winging it, but I guess he broke a little slow and that helped us," Jerkens said. "They were making nice moves in the path where Tiger was all day. It seemed like the place to be."
Tiger's fourth career win was worth $64,020 and pushed his earnings to $149,100.
The 3-2 choice in the field of five, Tiger paid $5, $3.10, and $2.30. Dark Cheetah returned $4.90 and $2.60. Bishop Court Hill was $2.30 to show. Papua edged Pisgah by a neck for fourth.
Willaim S. Landes bred Tiger, who is out of the Timeless Native mare Itstimetocelebrate, in Kentucky.