Swettenham alive for Breeders’ Cup Sprint

Swettenham Stud stallion Hold That Tiger has a live chance in the G1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint with his California based star Smiling Tiger.

Smiling Tiger (3c Hold That Tiger – Shandra Smiles by Cahill Road) booked his ticket to Churchill Downs with a brilliant victory in the G1 Ancient Title Stakes at Hollywood Park earlier this month.

Part-owner Philip Lebherz began arranging travel plans for Louisville while jockey Russell Baze brought the colt back to scale at Hollywood.  “Breeders’ Cup, here we come!” Lebherz shouted to no one in particular.  Everyone within earshot knew what he meant.

So do the Swettenham Stud team at Seymour.  The Ancient Title was Smiling Tiger’s second Group 1 victory this year following the Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar.

He has emerged as the leading California contender for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on November 6 after Australian Horse of the Year Scenic Blast fell by the wayside.

Lebherz and his partner Alan Klein will spend more to enter and start Smiling Tiger in the BC Sprint than Lebherz did to acquire the horse.

Lebherz and trainer Jeff Bonde bought Smiling Tiger for $40,000 at the Washington September yearling sale in 2008.  Klein later bought an interest from Lebherz when the colt was a yearling.  He has since won 5 of his 9 starts and earned over $520,000.

To start in the BC Sprint, the fees are $20,000 to enter and $40,000 to start.  Lebherz operates an insurance company and he is ready to take the risk.

“We’ll send the horse to Kentucky sooner rather than later,” Lebherz said.  “We want him to be acclimated.  It will be very exciting.  We know how hard it is.  I’ve had about 150 horses with Jeff over the years.”

Klein and Lebherz have been partners in a few horses for the last two years after meeting through Bonde.  Klein grew up in Southern California and owned horses with his father Norm in the 1970s.

Lebherz has been on the Kentucky Derby trail twice –  with Epic Honor and Sierra Sunset.  

Epic Honor was fourth in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in 1999 behind eventual Kentucky Derby winner Charismatic.  

Sierra Sunset won the 2008 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park but was later sidelined with a sesamoid injury.

Smiling Tiger showed a new aspect to his running style in the Ancient Title.  Instead of leading throughout, as he had in his first four career wins, Smiling Tiger stalked Cost of Freedom before taking the lead in the final furlong.

Lebherz is hopeful that Smiling Tiger can be patient in the first half of the BC Sprint if there is a torrid pace.  If not, Lebherz said that Smiling Tiger can lead throughout

Russell Baze will retain the mount in the B.C. Sprint.  “You’ve got to go with the guy that got you there,” Lebherz said.  “He’s a strong sprint guy and fits our horse pretty good.

“Smiling Tiger is peaking at the perfect time.  We won’t go to Churchill Downs on an ego trip.  We will go because we think he can win.”