March 25, 2023

El Tigre Terrible, last to first in Speakeasy, snares BC Juvenile Turf Sprint spot

El Tigre Terrible nabs stablemate Bulletproof One in the Speakeasy © BENOIT PHOTO

A last-minute addition to Sunday’s $101,755 Speakeasy S. at Santa Anita, Slam Dunk Racing and Michael Nentwig’s El Tigre Terrible got up in the last stride to win a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2). The 23-1 shot produced a whirlwind charge to mug stablemate Bulletproof One in the all-Peter Miller exacta.

Making his turf debut in the “Win and You’re In,” El Tigre Terrible broke slowly and lagged in last early. But the pace was plenty hot, as Greg’s Diva winged through fractions of :20.76 and :43.99. The 5-2 favorite, Ginobili – ironically co-owned by Slam Dunk – briefly loomed before finding himself outkicked in fourth.

Bulletproof One appeared to make the winning move as she nabbed fellow filly Greg’s Diva in deep stretch, only to be surprised by El Tigre Terrible slicing between them. In the course of his furious finish for Ruben Fuentes, the winner made contact with Bulletproof One while heading her at the wire. Bulletproof One’s rider, Edwin Maldonado, lodged a claim of foul against Fuentes. The stewards disallowed it, ruling that the brush didn’t affect the result.

El Tigre Terrible zipped five firm-turf furlongs in :55.78, not far off Eddie Haskell’s course mark of :55.06. The California-bred gelding by Smiling Tiger was twice a winner sprinting on the Del Mar dirt.

“I had never been on this horse, not even in the morning,” Fuentes said. “They were going so quick up front that he settled on his own. I saved ground at the rail and we had a dream trip. It opened up and he finished strong.”

“It was one of those last-minute entries,” Miller recounted of his audible in the Speakeasy. “It was about 10 o’clock in the morning before entries closed and I called Nick (Cosato of Slam Dunk Racing) and said, ‘Hey, I think we should take a shot. If I owned the horse I would do it.’ He said ‘go ahead’ and lightning struck.

“Sometimes you take a shot and you win, sometimes you embarrass yourself, and sometimes you run one-two and it’s real sweet.”

Miller noted that Bulletproof One was adversely affected by being drawn next to Mr Tip. That rival got upset, broke through the gate before the start, and ended up being a vet scratch. Bulletproof One ended up not breaking as well after the hubbub, and nearly overcame it.

“I felt like one of my horses was going to win, both of them ran super and we couldn’t be prouder of the horses,” the trainer said.

Santa Anita also hosted a pair of juvenile turf stakes at a mile that should yield contenders for the corresponding Breeders’ Cup events.

The well-bred Hit the Road basically told his rivals as much in the $100,702 Zuma Beach, inhaling the whole field to win as he pleased by 2 1/4 lengths in 1:34.33. Trained by Dan Blacker and ridden by Hall of Famer Victor Espinoza, the 7-1 chance left 4-5 favorite Encoder toiling back in fourth. Encoder, the Del Mar Juvenile Turf winner over Billy Batts, couldn’t confirm form here as Billy Batts was third, a neck off runner-up War Beast.

“This was my first time on this horse, and he showed me a lot,” Espinoza said. “The favorite (Encoder) came out on me going into the first turn, so I had to take him back, and we ended up last around the turn. I was really impressed with how he handled it, because when I asked him to pick it up, he was very strong. He’s got a long stride and he covers a lot of ground. That was impressive.”

Hit the Road, by More Than Ready and out of a half to 2013 Dewhurst (G1) winner War Command, was last seen breaking his maiden on the Del Mar turf July 28.

“He got sick on the day we were going to run him (back) at Del Mar,” Blacker revealed of the colt he hopes can get into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1). “But he had been working well and we expected a big performance. Victor rode him awesome. He did a great job. I’m just so thrilled for the owners (D K Racing, Radley Equine, Taste of Victory Stables, and Rick Gold) for giving me a chance with a horse like this.”

The $100,351 Surfer Girl witnessed a bigger upset as Warren’s Showtime, the 35-1 longest shot on the board, upstaged Croughavouke, Mind Out, and trailing 3-2 favorite Yesterdayoncemore in 1:35.06.

The Ben and Sally Warren homebred was dismissed in the wake of her eighth behind Yesterdayoncemore and Croughavouke in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf, but trainer Craig Lewis believed a troubled trip cost her that day.

“We wanted to try and lay up a little bit closer here today to try to stay out of trouble,” Lewis said, “but she still found some trouble, she got shuffled back a bit, but when she started to run I started to feel pretty good. She’s a real good filly and I’ve loved her from ‘jump street.’”

Lewis credited apprentice jockey Jorge Velez for riding to instructions and netting his first stakes win.

“Jorge is a very good rider, a hard worker. He listens and always gives his best. We are very lucky to have him on our team.

“He’s very patient for a young apprentice – he can really wait. The late, great Bobby Frankel used to say, ‘I’d rather get beat staying inside on the turf than trying to win when you lose ground.’”

As the inside route opened up for Warren’s Showtime, a couple of her rivals were having a tougher time. The wayward Mind Out ducked out, and Croughavouke was inconvenienced in the chain reaction. They righted themselves, but the winner had poached a decisive edge.

The first black-type winner sired by Clubhouse Ride, Warren’s Showtime is the first foal from Grade 1 star Warren’s Veneda.

“I’m very appreciative that Ben and Sally Warren were willing to breed their Grade 1-winning mare to maybe the up-and-coming stud of the decade, Clubhouse Ride. He’s phenomenal,” Lewis added of his old stalwart who stands at Harris Farms in California.

“Clubhouse Ride was a really good horse, but I think he’s going to be a stallion for the history books. People can see that he’s by Candy Ride, but he’s out of Phipps family mare by Seeking the Gold and it’s an outstanding family. To make a stallion, you’ve got to get the right mares and I want to thank Ben and Sally Warren for breeding this filly’s dam, Warren’s Veneda, to him.  She was a Grade 1 winner and it’s tough to get those kinds of mares.

“Horses make trainers, trainers don’t make horses.”