Craig B. Singer’s homebred Salty Strike jumped out to the early lead and never looked back as the 4-year-old filly posted her third consecutive stakes win in the $100,000 Gardenia Stakes (gr. III) at Ellis Park Aug. 11 (VIDEO).
Ridden by Victor Lebron for trainer Kenny McPeek in the mile main track test that began just at the top of the first turn, Salty Strike was first out of the gate while pursued by 7-5 favorite Joyful Victory, the grade II winner of 2011 who was coming off a lengthy layoff for trainer Larry Jones, and longshot Find the Humor.
After the first quarter was completed in :23.71, Salty Strike was still comfortably in front and led Joyful Victory and Gabriel Saez by 1 1/2 lengths as the nine-horse field moved down the backside, getting the half in :47.21. The pace quickened and the leader let out a notch as she rounded the far turn, with six furlongs completed in 1:11.68, as Joyful Victory continued to sit comfortably in second, followed by Holiday Soiree.
The order remained unchanged as Salty Strike carried them into the stretch and the filly continued on for an easy 1 1/4-length victory. The winner paid $8.60, $4.00, and $3.00, with Joyful Victory worth $3.00 and $2.60. Ridgester was five lengths behind the runner-up, paying $8.00. The exacta paid $26.00. Holiday Soiree held on for fourth, followed by Absinthe Minded, multiple grade I winner Sassy Image (who bobbled at the start), Formal Plan, Find the Humor, and She's Picky.
A daughter of Smart Strike produced from the winning Salt Lake mare Lake Huron, Salty Strike improved her record to 7-1-1 from 16 starts and increased her earnings to $367,060. Previous to the Gardenia, the filly won the Prairie Rose Stakes at Prairie Meadows and the Roxelana Stakes at Churchill Downs. Last year, Salty Strike was a two-time stakes winner at Churchill, taking the Dogwood Stakes (gr. III) and Dream Supreme Stakes.
The Gardenia winner is a half sister to stakes winner Salty Response and multiple stakes-placed Northern Vacation.