With a victory in the Dec. 26 La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita, Spiced Perfection became the first Grade 1 stakes winner for her sire Smiling Tiger (Hold That Tiger). The fast bay filly also is from the stallion's first crop of runners, which propelled him into 19th place among freshman sires in 2017, and the chestnut grandson of Storm Cat is currently 15th among all second-crop sires in America.
Those are national rankings, not regional or state rankings, where Smiling Tiger leads his crop-rank contemporaries by a mile. In addition, he is the only in-state stallion who has sired a 2018 G1 winner that's bred in California.
Bred in California by Premier Thoroughbreds LLC, Spiced Perfection comes from the moderate-sized but upwardly mobile broodmare band of Phil Lebherz, who bought and raced Smiling Tiger with Alan Klein. In various partnerships, Lebherz has raced stakes horses Epic Honor (Honor Grades; 1999 Golden Gate Derby), Sierra Sunset (Bertrando; 2008 Rebel Stakes), Sway Away (Afleet Alex; three times G2 second, including the 2012 San Carlos), and Smiling Tiger's half-sister She's a Tiger (Tale of the Cat).
A filly of exceptional speed, She's a Tiger won the G1 Del Mar Debutante and finished first in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies of 2013, only to be disqualified, but gained the Eclipse Award as the top 2-year-old filly of the year. She's a Tiger made a single unsuccessful start at 3 and sold as a broodmare prospect at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale for $2.5 million to Katsumi Yoshida.
In 2017 and 2018, Lebherz and Klein raced one of their first homebreds, Miss Sunset, a California-bred daughter of Into Mischief (Harlan's Holiday), who was trained by Jeff Bonde and won the G2 Raven Run at Keeneland in October. The following month, she sold to Breeze Easy LLC for $825,000 at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky's November sale.
In contrast to all the fancy prices, Spiced Perfection sold for only $6,500 as a yearling in the Barretts October sale, then resold for $50,000 at the 2017 Barretts March sale of 2-year-olds in training. Dennis Yokum, the farm manager for Premier Thoroughbreds, said that “there wasn't anything the matter with Spiced Perfection as a yearling, although she was a little small,” but several of the offspring by Smiling Tiger have sold better as 2-year-olds than in the yearling market.
Yokum noted that “we sold three at the 2-year-old sale this year, two by Smiling Tiger and one by Violence; all previewed well, are winners now, and both the Smiling Tigers have won stakes.”
Those two by Smiling Tiger are Cruel Intention, winner of the Golden State Juvenile on Nov. 3, and Naughty Tiger, winner of the California Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Stakes on Aug. 1.
Cruel Intention is a full brother to Spiced Perfection, and, commenting on the differences between the siblings, Yokum said, “As yearlings, he had a much better hip. There's a lot more to him physically. We kept him to sell as a 2-year-old because we thought he would be a fast horse and knew he would preview well at the in-training sales.”
They were right, and Cruel Intention sold for $200,000, the same price that Premier Thoroughbreds got for the Violence juvenile bred by the farm and sold at the same auction earlier this year.
So, both at the sales and on the racetrack, attention is swinging toward Smiling Tiger, which is a happy result for the program that co-owner Lebherz worked out to assist his stallion.
Yokum said, “Smiling Tiger was a really outstanding racehorse with three G1 victories and a world of ability. In addition, Phil has a real love for Smiling Tiger and wants him to succeed in this second career. And then, he wanted the horse to be a benefit to Cal breeding. Once Smiling Tiger came off the racetrack, the partners wanted to stand and support the horse. They stood him here at the farm the first year, and the numbers he has put up from that first year are impressive,” including his first-crop star Spiced Perfection.
“Now Smiling Tiger stands at Harris Farms, which is more centrally located and part of a well-regarded stallion roster,” Yokum said, “and we've got more good ones coming. We have purchased a good group of mares to help support the horse. We bought a number of mares in foal in Kentucky, and when those foals are born, they become Cal-breds so that we have some fancy Cal-breds to sell, and the mares went to Smiling Tiger to support him.”
An example of that program is the stakes-placed Smart Strike mare Mourette, whom Yokum purchased in Kentucky at 2016 Keeneland November sale for $85,000. The mare's first foal is Sir Anthony (Mineshaft), who upset Audible and others to win the G3 Harlan's Holiday at Gulfstream earlier this month. Mourette has a foal of 2018 by Smiling Tiger and is back in foal to Honor Code. Yokum added that the “mare will foal the Honor Code in Kentucky and will be bred back to West Coast.
“We've got some really nice-looking Smiling Tiger weanlings, including the one out of Mourette, that are going to be yearlings next week, and we're confident that more good things are coming from them and this sire.”
Smiling Tiger, who stands at Harris Farms for $6,500, has five stakes winners of 2018 from his first two crops to race, and the stallion has numerous promising representatives from the good mares that Premier Thoroughbreds has purchased to support him.
Breeders in California and afar have noticed and with a rising tide of mares, there will be more quality and quantity to keep the Tiger smiling.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in Central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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