The son of Vindication was claimed by $40,000 by trainer Robertino Diodoro for owners Charles Garvey and TG Racing prior to his last race, a winning effort at Santa Anita Nov. 4. The gelding has now won three in a row, as he also took a starter allowance at Del Mar over the summer for previous trainer Tim Yakteen.
First Strike was bred in Kentucky by his former owner, Mercedes Stables, and is out of the Carson City mare Miss City Princess.
First Strike and Lone Star Derby winner Thirtyfirststreet were the only two horses in contention for nearly all of the 1 1/16-mile dirt race. With Alejandro Medellin aboard, Thirtyfirststreet took the early advantage while running the opening quarter-mile in :23.81 and a half-mile in :48.34. First Strike and Alfredo Juarez Jr. sat just off of the leader, while there was a big gap back to the rest of the field.
First Strike took over approaching the turn, grabbed a clear lead when he straightened away, and fought off a stubborn Thirtyfirststreet throughout the stretch to score in his stakes debut. The final time for the distance over the fast dirt was 1:44.86.
Half Dome Dude and Enrique Gomez were well back in third. Happy Toes was fourth, followed by odds-on favorite Awesome Bet, and Hidden Recipe.
First Strike, who was making his first start outside of California, improved to 4-2-2 from nine starts and upped his earnings to $165,760.
He paid $14.40, $5.40, and $3.60. The exacta (4-3) returned $63 and the trifecta (4-3-6) was worth $320.40.