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BAFFERT’S EUROEARS UPSETS IN PALOS VERDES AS 2-5 FAVORITE SMILING TIGER FINISHES A WELL-BEATEN THIRD; BLOEMER GIRL SURPRISE WINNER OF THE SWEET LIFE; CARRYOVER OF $104,448
ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 22, 2011) – At 2-5, the shortest odds in a splendid career sprinting, Smiling Tiger suffered his harshest setback Saturday when leading trainer Bob Baffert’s Euroears ran away with Santa Anita’s 59th running of the Grade II, $150,000 Palos Verdes Handicap at odds of 9-1.
With Mike Smith in the saddle, Euroears gained command in the first quarter of the six-furlong event and was never threatened while timed in a fleet 1:07.23. Smiling Tiger settled for third, 2 ¼ lengths behind runner-up Captain Cherokee and 4 ½ behind the winner.
Fractious in the gate and appearing to break flat-footed, Smiling Tiger was fourth among six runners during the early going and never did get untracked.
Making his first start for Baffert and his first in California, the 7-year-old Euroears was up to the task despite not having raced since July and routing in his three previous starts. Routing did not seem to be his niche. The Kentucky-bred son of Langfuhr had won six of nine competitions at six furlongs and never at a longer distance.
“I have to give Bob (Baffert) a lot of credit,” said Smith in the winner’s circle. “He told me to take it to them and put him on the lead. Fortunately, I broke well, but I had to kind of put him there. Once I got him going, he was just cruising.
“He’s a great, great, classy horse. I knew what this horse was capable of because he has so much back class. I knew if I could get a clear lead and at some point give him a breather, then go again, he would run well, and it worked. The favorite (Smiling Tiger) was acting up in the gate and didn’t get away quite as good as he normally would because he was kind of throwing a fit.”
After gaining his fifth stakes victory and 19th win on the meet’s 19th day, Baffert elaborated on Smith’s remarks. “I wanted to be on the lead,” he said, “so I just told Mike to put him on the lead because he likes to run that way. I remember way back when, he was always a really fast horse. He went nine-and-change from the gate here one morning. Mike did a good job, got him away from there, and got the lead. I don’t know what’s next.”
Owning fast horses is nothing new to James and Marilyn Helzer, the owners of Euroears who reside in Dallas, as they raced quarter horse legend Refrigerator in the early 1990s. Refrigerator won 11 stakes races, nine of them Grade I races.
The winning purse of $90,000 elevated the career earnings of Euroears to $491,562 from a lifetime record of 9-1-2 in 17 starts. The Palos Verdes marked his first graded stakes win. Euroears had begun his career with six straight wins after debuting at Lone Star Park on July 8, 2007.
The Southern California newcomer paid $20, $9.80 and $4.20. Captain Cherokee, the field’s longest shot at 28-1 with Joe Talamo aboard, paid $16.40 and $6.40. The show price on Smiling Tiger, with regular rider Russell Baze in the saddle, was $2.10.
A 4-year-old son of Hold That Tiger trained by Jeff Bonde, Smiling Tiger was coming off a nose loss to the highly-regarded Twirling Candy in Santa Anita’s Grade I Malibu Stakes on the meet’s opening day, Dec. 26. He previously had run third in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint following victories in a pair of Grade I events, Oak Tree’s Ancient Title and the Bing Crosby at Del Mar last year. His record became 5-1-6 in 12 career starts.
In a companion feature for 3-year-old fillies on Saturday, Bloemer Girl could not be overhauled at odds of 13-1 in the 2nd running of the Sweet Life Stakes over 6 ½ furlongs on Santa Anita’s downhill turf course.
With Victor Espinoza aboard, Bloemer Girl sped to an early lead in the field of 10 and maintained her advantage while crossing the wire one-half length ahead of Cloneylass in 1:13.75. Wallstreeter ran third, 2 ¼ lengths behind the runner-up.
She’ll Heir appeared to have been bumped by the winner at the start of the race to unseat jockey Patrick Valenzuela. The 48-year-old rider escaped with little more than bruises, and although he took off his mount in the last race, walked back to the Jockeys’ Room after being examined in First Aid and is expected to ride on Sunday.
For Bloemer Girl, the win was her second in three starts after having broken her maiden by five lengths while sprinting at Golden Gate Fields on Jan. 1. She paid $29.
Trained by Jedd Josephson, bred in California by veterinarian Dr. Rick Arthur and owned by his son, Andrew, and daughter, Christa Arthur, the daughter of Bertrando won purse money of $61,890 as her earnings soared to $89,658.
The upsets in the co-features were instrumental in generating only the second Pick Six carryover of the winter/spring meet. A total of $104,448.85 will be carried into Sunday’s Pick Six which begins with the fourth race.
German-bred Éclair de Lune, winner of Arlington Park’s prestigious Grade I Beverly D last August, returns from a freshening Sunday to head the first running of the $75,000 Megahertz Stakes for fillies and mares at one mile on turf. The nine-race program gets underway at 12:30 p.m.