Tiger tries to stay unbeaten against stakes rivals when he meets seven others in the $200,000 True North Handicap (gr. II) at six furlongs on the Belmont Park main track.
The 5-year-old Tiger has raced just eight times, including an impressive victory in the Bold Ruler (gr. III) over the track May 13. Lengthy layoffs in his past performance lines were caused by tendon troubles and a severe bout of EPM, an infection of the central nervous system, which can lead to severe back soreness and poor coordination.
"Most people would have run him for a ham sandwich when he wasn't doing any good," trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. "His owners really stood by him and deserve a lot of credit."
A gelding by Storm Boot
, Tiger is owned by Susan and John Moore. He has won three of four starts this year including the Bold Ruler. Tiger tracked a screaming pace through the first half of the Bold Ruler, took over when ready, and coasted home to an easy 3 ½-length score. He stopped the clock in 1:08 2/5 for six furlongs. Obviously thrilled with Tiger's progress this season, Jerkens recalled a time when he was unsure Tiger would ever race again.
"I didn't know if he'd make it back," he said. "He had the EPM so bad I didn't know if he'd ever get over it. He responded to the treatment, went down to Florida, and started training real good.
"The way he's going lately he just loves those glib racetracks. He's been bouncing right over them and does things so easy."
Tiger teams up with jockey Eibar Coa.
Jerkens also entered the 8-year-old Voodoo, who was second in the 2005 True North. Voodoo has not run since last Thanksgiving's Fall Highweight Handicap.
Spanish Chestnut is the 117-pound high weight. The pacesetter in the 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) owns a win and a third from two starts this year. He last ran third in Keeneland's Commonwealth (gr. II) April 15.
"He had a hard race at Keeneland, and I've given him plenty of time," trainer Patrick Biancone said. "He had a little problem after the Kentucky Derby last year, and we gave him the time to get over it. I've been happy with his two races this year. Our long range goal is the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I)."
Trainer Todd Pletcher has Vicarage for the True North. A four-time winner, Vicarage finished sixth in the Commonwealth after he tracked the pace inside. Although Vicarage has been a little erratic, he is capable of huge performances on any given day.
"His top races are good enough to beat just about anybody, and he's run some good races over the course here," Pletcher said. "He's got a race under his belt now, and I'm hoping he moves forward off it. I thought he had a good trip at Keeneland, although he was kind of stuck down inside. He just got tired the last part."$200,000 True North Handicap (gr. II, Race 6, 3:10 p.m.), 3 & Up, 6 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Vicarage (KY), 116, John Velazquez
2. Mach Speed (KY), 113, Michael Luzzi
3. Tiger (KY), 116, Eibar Coa
4. Celtic Innis (MD), 113, Cornelio Velasquez
5. Spanish Chestnut (FL), 117, Julien Leparoux
6. Uncle Camie (NY), 115, Richard Migliore
7. Voodoo (KY), 114, Javier Castellano
8. Anew (KY), 113, Alan Garcia