Bear Tough Tiger, rallying on the outside, outfought stablemate Bear No Joke to record his first stakes victory in the $127,940 Kennedy Road (Can-III) by a neck at Woodbine Nov. 25 (VIDEO).
Owned by Bear Stables and trained by Reade Baker, Bear Tough Tiger served notice that he was ready for a big effort with a third-place finish in the Nearctic Stakes (Can-IT), beaten by just one length, after pressing the pace on turf in his most recent start Oct. 14.
Justin Stein gave Bear Tough Tiger, who broke from the rail, a handy ride, angling the 4-year-old Roar of the Tiger gelding into the clear on the outside for the drive and gradually getting the better of Bear No Joke. The runner-up, ridden by Emma-Jayne Wilson, is also trained by Baker for Bear Stables.
The winning time for the six-furlong event on Polytrack was a swift 1:08.77, slightly off the track mark of 1:08.16 set by Essence Hit Man winning the Jacques Cartier Stakes in April 2011.
Essence Hit Man, the 11-10 choice in the field of nine and the 124-pound highlight, set a blazing pace (:21.84, :44.18) in his quest for a repeat victory in the Kennedy Road. Feeling pressure all the way from Something Extra, he gave way in the stretch.
Canada's champion male sprinter in 2011, Essence Hit Man finished fifth in his first start since the Nov. 19 death of his trainer Audre Cappuccitti, who owned and bred the 5-year-old with her husband Gordon.
"They ran away from everyone pretty quickly and opened up a good lengthy lead," said Stein of the pacesetters. "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 appreciated a chance to run at horses after working hard on the front end in the Nearctic.
"He's a gutsy horse and he's really been improving," said Stein. "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."
Something Extra held on for third under Eurico Da Silva, 1 1/4 lengths behind Bear No Joke, with Court of the Realm fourth.
Bear Tough Tiger, who began the season with a starter allowance win at Woodbine in April, posted his fourth win in 2012 from eight starts. The improving chestnut had been up the track to Essence Hit Man in stakes races twice earlier this year.
Baker is hopeful Bear Tough Tiger can continue his good form in Florida.
"He's doing better all the time. He'll go a little farther," said Baker. "We might try the Mr. Prospector Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream before the year's over and see if we can get a Sovereign Award or two."
Bred in Florida by Penny's In a Stream, Bear Tough Tiger is out of the stakes-placed Afternoon Deelites mare Dazzling Deelite. He sold for $70,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s 2010 April sale.
Bear Tough Tiger, improving his career record to 7-2-1 in 12 races with earnings of $344,285, paid $11.60, $4.80, and $3.40 as the second choice. He carried 115 pounds. Bear No Joke, always close to the leaders for Wilson, settled for second and returned $16 and $7.70. The all-Baker exacta was worth $200.30. Something Extra paid $3.60 to show.
Court of the Realm and Essence Hit Man were followed by Night Officer, Havelock, Fatal Bullet, and Artic Fern.