Two weeks after demolishing a field of optional claimers, Craig Singer’s homebred filly Salty Strike became a graded winner when she returned to Churchill Downs June 4 to take the $109,300 Dogwood Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) by 3 3/4 lengths.
The 3-year-old daughter of Smart Strike took over from pacesetter Fantasy of Flight approaching the quarter pole and opened up a commanding lead in the stretch en route to her third win in seven career starts. All three of the victories have come over the main track at Churchill, and she also finished third on the same oval in the Debutante Stakes (gr. III) as a juvenile.
Manoel Cruz guided Salty Strike to victory for trainer Ken McPeek, who one race later would win the Aristides (gr. III) with Noble's Promise for a stakes double. Salty Strike covered one mile on a fast track in 1:35.39.
The winner was bred in Kentucky and is out of the Salt Lake mare Lake Huron.
Fantasy of Flight set the pace under Robby Albarado, clicking off fractions of :23.14 and :46.09. Sitting third through a half-mile, Salty Strike easliy went by Gran Lioness and came up to challenge Fantasy of Flight on the turn. She took over nearing the quarter pole and had a 1 1/2-length lead at the top of the stretch before drawing off for the decisive win.
Fantasy of Flight hung on for second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Gran Lioness. Angelica Zapata, finishing only a neck farther back,was fourth in a field of six.
“This is my first stakes win at Churchill Downs. I hope this is just the first of many more to come," Cruz said. “She sat perfectly in the race. I took her outside because I knew I had a ton of horse and I didn’t want to take any chances. When I asked her to move, she responded and broke away from the group.”
Salty Strike began her season by finishing second in a one-mile allowance contest at Gulfstream Park in February. She then finished fourth in the Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park and sixth in an allowance race at Keeneland. But once she got back to Churchill, where she broke her maiden by more than four lengths last year, Salty Strike turned it back around. Salty Strike scored by seven lengths in a May 20 allowance/optional claiming race going seven panels, which set her up perfectly for the Dogwood.
The dark brown/bay filly improved to 3-1-1 from her seven starts and has now earned $152,492.
“She has really come around,” McPeek said. “I’d like to keep her sprinting on the dirt. I think we will look at sending her to the Test (gr. I) at Saratoga.”
The Dogwood winner paid $12.80, $4.80, and $3.20. The exacta (3-5) returned $47 and the trifecta (3-5-8) was worth $239.80.