Craig Singer's homebred Salty Strike captured her third stakes in succession, and the second Grade 3 event of her career, in Saturday's $100,000 Gardenia, highlight of the summer meet at Ellis Park. The four-year-old daughter of Smart Strike led nearly throughout while hugging the rail, and crept clear of 7-5 favorite Joyful Victory in the stretch to post a 1 1/4-length victory under Victor Lebron in a time of 1:36 4/5 over the fast main track. She returned $8.60, $4 and $3 as the 3-1 co-second choice in a field of nine.
Second by a head to Joyful Victory after a quarter-mile in :23 3/5, Salty Strike emerged from a four-way duel with the lead down the backside and opened up a half-length advantage over her gray rival through a half-mile in :47 1/5. The margin was the same after six furlongs in 1:11 3/5, and in the stretch Salty Strike's recent form began to show over Joyful Victory, who was making her first start since March. At the wire, Salty Strike held Joyful Victory safe with the latter filly five lengths ahead of 21-1 chance Ridgster, who beat Holiday Soiree by a neck for the show.
Completing the Gardenia order of finish were Absinthe Minded, Sassy Image, Formal Plan, Find the Humor and She's Picky. Juanita and Toxis were scratched.
Salty Strike has now won five of 10 stakes attempts. Her previous Grade 3 score came in the Dogwood over one mile at Churchill Downs at age three, and she completed her sophomore season with a victory in the six-furlong Dream Supreme over the same track.
Unplaced in her first two outings this term, Salty Strike entered the Gardenia off wins in the six-furlong Prairie Rose at Prairie Meadows and a 3 1/2-length demolishing of multiple Grade 1 winner Sassy Image in the seven-furlong Roxelana at Churchill on June 30. The Kenny McPeek trainee now boasts a line of 16-7-1-1, $367,060.
Produced by the winning Salt Lake mare Lake Huron, Salty Strike is a half-sister to stakes winner Salty Response and the multiple stakes-placed Northern Vacation. Salty Strike traces back to Broodmare of the Year Cosmah, the dam of Hall of Fame filly Tosmah and leading sire Halo.