High Strike Zone held off even-money favorite Supah Blitz to win his first graded stakes race, the $300,000 Texas Mile (gr. III) at Lone Star Park Saturday.
Now perfect in three starts at the one-mile distance, the 5-year-old Smart Strike
gelding overcame a wide trip to wear down the pacesetter Yessirgeneralsir inside the furlong pole. Under Ricky Faul, High Strike Zone edged away from Supah Blitz, who slipped throug along the inside but could not match strides with the winner close to home.
"Our game plan was to lay off the speed and let him come running," said Faul. "He did what we wanted him to do today."
The Amos Laborde trainee went off at odds of more than 7-1 and finished in 1:35 1/5 on a fast track.
The 8-year-old gelding Twilight Road was a length farther back in third.
High Strike Zone earned $185,000 for owner Donald W. Erickson of Albuquerque, N.M. Winner of the Delta Mile at Delta Downs two starts back, the Kentucky-bred bay was coming off a second-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Gulf Coast Breeders' Cup Classic April 2 after opening a two-length lead in the stretch. He won for only the second time in nine tries at Lone Star but he has never failed to hit the board at the Grand Prairie track.
"I'm real proud of him and the entire team at the barn," Faul said of the winner. "I'd been waiting for this day all meet. Amos and I talked about this race down at Delta Downs and we were really looking forward to this race."
High Strike Zone improved his career mark to 7-9-5 in 24 starts with earnings of $386,160.
High Strike Zone was never far behind the pacesetter while racing on the outside of horses as Yessirgeneralsir set a sharp pace of :22 4/5, :45 1/5 and 1:09.
The winner paid $17.40, $4.80 and $2.80. Supah Blitz, favored off a three-length win in the Tokyo City Handicap (gr. III) in his last start April 2 at Santa Anita, returned $2.60 and $2.20 with Victor Espinoza aboard. Twilight Road, with Phil Teator riding, was $2.60 to show in his 50th career start.
"I got stuck down on the inside and the track is a little bit deep down there for him," Espinoza said. "And one mile is just a little bit short for him. He prefers more distance."
Yessirgeneralsir, Snorter and Toratora followed.