Smiling Tiger, who ran away from the field in the Bing Crosby Stakes (gr. I) four weeks ago and was never caught, will try to to do it again in the $300,000 Pat O'Brien Stakes (gr. I) at Del Mar Aug. 28.
Spendthrift Farm's Crown of Thorns makes his first start for trainer Richard Mandella since he was nosed out by Dancing in Silks in last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) at odds of 15-1.
Philip Lebherz and Alan Klein's 3-year-old Smiling Tiger handed trainer Jeff Bonde his first grade I victory in Del Mar's Bing Crosby Aug. 1, when the colt faced older horses for the first time. The son of Hold That Tiger will have to hold his speed for one furlong farther over the tiring Polytrack in the Pat O'Brien, but if he can do it he will sew up a starting berth in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs.
The Pat O'Brien drew a field of 10 and is the 10th race on the program, which also includes the $1 million Pacific Classic Presented by TVG (gr. I) and the $250,000 Del Mar Mile (gr. IIT) . Post time for the Pat O'Brien is 5:30 p.m. PDT.
Going for his third consecutive graded stakes win, Smiling Tiger could get the same sort of trip this time that he did in the Crosby. There does not appear to be an abundance of early speed. Tropic Storm, starting to the inside of Smiling Tiger, would seem to be the most likely candidate to challenge for the lead.
In the Crosby, Smiling Tiger went to the front when odds-on choice Cost of Freedom failed to break cleanly and he opened up by two lengths while clicking off fractions of :22.41 and :44.62. He came home in 1:09.21 as late-running Scenic Blast attempted to cut into the advantage with little impact, losing by 1 1/2 lengths.
Smiling Tiger, to be ridden once again by Victor Espinoza, began his streak with a front-running victory in the seven-furlong Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes (gr. III) at Hollywood Park May 22. Third behind Lookin At Lucky in both the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) and Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) as a juvenile last summer, the chestnut colt brings a career mark of 4-0-3 in seven starts and earnings of $333,864.
Crown of Thorns, who was also second in the Ancient Title Stakes (gr. I) last fall at Oak Tree, drilled seven furlongs on the Polytrack in 1:26 1/5 Aug. 21. He has been working well at Del Mar in preparation for his return, including a bullet six-furlong move of 1:11 Aug. 8. He is reunited with Rafael Bejarano, who rode the 5-year-old son of Repent for the first time in the Breeders' Cup.
Trainer Bob Baffert has entered three, though none of them figure to be early speed factors.
Arnold Zetcher's E Z's Gentleman earned a grade I victory in the Triple Bend Handicap at the difficult seven-furlong distance July 10 at Hollywood. But the Baffert-trained son of Yankee Gentleman was no match for Smiling Tiger when third in the Crosby, finishing nearly five lengths behind the winner while drifting in late. The 5-year-old gets off the rail this time and will leave from post 2 with Martin Garcia aboard.
Zetcher and Baffert also entered El Brujo, who was a decent fourth in spite of trouble in the Bing Crosby, his first start for his new connections. El Brujo, a 4-year-old son of Candy Ride , reeled off a pair of grade III sprint victories last year, including Keeneland's Perryville at seven furlongs on Polytrack.
E Z's Gentleman and El Brujo are not coupled in the wagering.
A third member of the Baffert stable, Darley's Sangaree , cuts back in distance after running out of steam in the 1 1/16-mile San Diego Handicap (gr. II) July 31 and finishing seventh. Sangaree was second to E Z's Gentleman in the Triple Bend before that.
West Point Thoroughbreds' Tropic Storm returned from an absence of nearly two years in a five-furlong turf sprint for optional claimers Aug. 6 at Del Mar. The 6-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic nearly wired the field, losing by a nose, but he was moved up to first via disqualification by the stewards.
Craig Dollase trains Tropic Storm, who has finished in the money in 12 of 14 races, winning five. He has earned $331,700.
New Bay was claimed for $40,000 by A.C. Avila out of his last race. Kanan Dume, Leaving New York, and Chilean-bred Hard Bill are stepping up into stakes company.
$300,000 Pat O'Brien Stakes (gr. I, Race 10, 5:30 p.m.), 3 & Up, 7 Furlongs (Synthetic)
PP. Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Sangaree (KY), M A Pedroza, 119, B Baffert
2. E Z's Gentleman (KY), M Garcia, 123, B Baffert
3. Tropic Storm (FL), D R Flores, 119, C Dollase
4. Kanan Dume (KY), K John, 119, D F O'Neill
5. Leaving New York (CA), P A Valenzuela, 116, C O'Callaghan
6. Crown of Thorns (FL), R Bejarano, 119, R E Mandella
7. Hard Bill (CHI), G K Gomez, 119, M Puype
8. Smiling Tiger (KY), V Espinoza, 120, J Bonde
9. New Bay (KY), B Blanc, 123, A C Avila
10. El Brujo (ON), J Rosario, 119, B Baffert
Blinkers Off: New Bay, El Brujo