Jayeff B Stables’ Strike a Deal, who had been winless for nearly 18 months, finally tasted victory Nov. 8, as the 4-year-old colt stayed close to the pace, struck the front in upper stretch, and pulled away for a resounding seven-length victory in the $150,000 Red Smith Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) on a rainy afternoon at Aqueduct.
Under the patient handling of Charles Lopez, Strike a Deal followed pacesetters Presious Passion and Wheels Up At Noon for most of 1 3/8-mile turf contest. The son of Smart Strike inched closer to the front coming out of the final turn and then set his sights on Lauro, who briefly took over from a tiring Presious Passion nearing the eighth pole. Strike a Deal rolled right by Presious Passion a short time later and drew clear for an easy win.
The final time on the yielding turf was 2:23.28. Lauro, sent off as the post time favorite, held on for second under Andrasch Starke, three parts of a length in front of Banrock.
Trained by Alan Goldberg, Strike a Deal entered the Red Smith on a 10-race losing streak, his last win coming in the Straight Deal Stakes at Belmont May 23, 2007. Despite being unable to find the winner’s circle during that span, Strike a Deal finished runner-up six times, all of them in stakes competition. Most recently, he was second in the Oct. 25 Knickerbocker Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Belmont. The Red Smith was the bay colt’s first graded stakes score.
"I'm glad he did it today because we're probably going to give him the winter off and he would have had to wait another year to get a win," laughed Goldberg. "He's an honest horse; he tries all the time. If he would have had a length in a lot of his other races, he could be over the $2-million mark right now.
"He's had some tough luck against some top-flight horses, so I think that helped him today. He also had some speed to run at and probably handled the course better than some of the others in here. We'll probably try him on Polytrack next year and see how he likes it."
Presious Passion took the field of seven older horses around the course for much of the way, loping along in easy fractions of :26.55, :52.87, 1:19.05. and 1:43.70 for a mile. The 5-year-old Royal Anthem gelding was pressed the whole time by Wheels Up At Noon and repelled an initial bid by Lauro on the far turn.
Presious Passion finally had enough after coming off the turn and gave way to Lauro, who re-rallied under Starke to take a short advantage with just over a furlong remaining. But Strike a Deal was the one going best, as he took over at the eighth pole en route to a convincing victory.
Strike a Deal was bred in Kentucky by Bee Zee and is out of the Dixieland Band mare Shag. He improved to 4-7-1 from 16 starts and upped his earnings to $932,341.
Going off as the 4-1 fourth choice, Strike a Deal paid $10.60. $4.70, and $3.50. The exacta (7-5) returned $34, while the trifecta (8-7-3) was worth $157.50.
Always First was fourth, followed by Hard Top, Presious Passion and Wheels Up At Noon. Interpatation and Summer Patriot were scratched.