Bear Tough Tiger fought off stablemate Bear No Joke to earn his first stakes score in Sunday's Grade 3, $127,940 Kennedy Road at Woodbine.
The chestnut son of Roar of the Tiger, trained by Reade Baker and ridden by Justin Stein for owner Bear Stables Ltd., sat off the early pace of near 6-5 favorite Essence Hit Man and Something Extra before rallying to a narrow neck victory in the six-furlong Polytrack sprint.
Defending champion Essence Hit Man set pressured splits of :21 4/5 and :44 as Something Extra forced the issue. Bear No Joke, settled comfortably in fourth position by Stein from the inside-most post, angled off the rail through the turn and out-finished Bear No Joke to win in a rapid 1:08 3/5. Something Extra held on for show money over a rallying Court of the Realm.Stein was content to sit off the early pace of Essence Hit Man, who established the six-furlong track-record of 1:08.16 in the 2011 Jacques Cartier Stakes."They ran away from everyone pretty quickly and opened up a good lengthy lead," Stein explained. "My horse was settled into stride down on the inside, and I was all by myself sitting there waiting for the race to develop as we came around the turn."
Stein believes that Bear Tough Tiger, who entered the Kennedy Road off a prominent third-place effort in the grassy Grade 1 Nearctic Stakes, appreciated a chance to run at horses.
"He's a gutsy horse and he's really been improving," Stein noted. "I think it was really the long stretch, on the turf, that really wore him down (in the Nearctic). He did a lot of the work in that race. We drew an inside post in that race as well, and we had no choice but to go to the lead, and that's what happened today but we had more pace to run at."
Baker is hopeful the four-year-old Florida-bred gelding can continue his good form in Florida.
"He's doing better all the time. He'll go a little farther," Baker said. "We might try the (Grade 3) Mr. Prospector Stakes at Gulfstream (on December 29) before the year's over and see if we can get a Sovereign Award or two."
Bear No Joke improved his record 7-2-1 from 12 career starts and has now banked $326,152. In his only foray outside of Woodbine, the chestnut posted a 4 3/4-length victory against allowance rivals at Presque Isle Downs on September 29. He is out of the stakes-placed Afternoon Deelites mare Dazzling Deelite and counts as his fourth dam champion three-year-old filly and Canadian Horse of the Year Fanfreluche.