ARCADIA, CA – Tyree Wolesensky’s Grinning Tiger got the early lead and proceeded to run his foes off of their feet, destroying the tote at 92/1 in the process in Saturday’s $100,000 Crystal Water Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking from post 2 under Heriberto Figueroa as the longest shot on the board by a considerable margin, Grinning Tiger beat everyone else to the lead. Settling a length ahead of Cono, he posted opening fractions of :23.46, :47.73, and 1:12.11 while remaining unchallenged throughout.
Given the green light near the top of the stretch, Grinning Tiger held his narrow advantage the length of the drive home, despite bids from nearly everyone else in the eight-horse field. The Anthony Saavedra trainee crossed 1 3/4 lengths ahead in a final time of 1:35.75 for the 1-mile firm turf route.
“I tried to let him relax; he’s very hyper,” Figueroa said. “You have to keep it quiet and talk to him really nice and easy. He relaxed pretty good today.”
Lieutenant Dan came running down the middle of the lane to take second by a 1/2-length over Brandothebartender. Behind them came King Abner, Ward ‘n Jerry, Cono, the nonthreatening 4/5 favorite Prince Earl, and Oliver to complete the order of finish.
Grinning Tiger’s win was his first since taking a 6-furlong dirt optional claiming event at Los Alamitos last September and improved his overall record to 27-8-4-1 with $209,801 earned. Wolesensky claimed the 5-year-old Oregon-bred Smiling Tiger gelding for $10,000 on February 25, 2019, out of a Turfway Park race and sent him to Saavedra that summer.
“I really did think we could get it done,” Saavedra said. “He shuts off so easy; he’s not a runoff. He will just bow that head and do whatever we want him to do. We were dying to try the two turns. I’ve entered this horse five times, but nothing filled. We were going to scratch him at the last minute, but we all came together and said he needs to run. I put blinkers on for three races trying to get him around the turns, but he wouldn’t break with them; he was too nervous in there. We took them back off and went back to where we were at.”
Grinning Tiger returned $186 to win, $48 to place, and $19.60 to show. Lieutenant Dan brought back $5 to place and $4.20 to show, while Brandothebartender paid $8 to show.