Might took most of the prerace support for theDogwood Stakes (gr.3) on the strength of her two consecutive wins and the fact that she is the full sister to 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr.1) winner and Horse of the Year finalist, Blame. But when it came time to put ability and reputation to the test just one filly’s potential survived the trip unscathed.
Salty Strike entered the Dogwood Stakes empty-handed in two stakes tries and only a maiden and allowance win to her credit. She broke her maiden at first asking before finishing third to Just Louise in the Debutante Stakes (gr.3) as a juvenile last year. She finished second in her 2011 debut in a Gulfstream Park allowance race before testing deeper waters in the Honeybee Stakes (gr.3) and finishing a distant fourth behind Joyful Victory. Given a month she returned on Keeneland’s all weather track and finished an uninspiring sixth against allowance company and was returned to the dirt in her next try. On May 20th at Churchill Downs Salty Strike absolutely manhandled a field of five other three-year-old fillies in a seven furlong optional allowance claiming race and cruised home by seven lengths, much the best.
In the Dogwood Stakes, Salty Strike broke alertly from the gates and settled in just behind Fantasy of Flight and Gran Lioness in third while Might took up the fourth spot, just a length and a half behind. After an opening quarter in :23.14 Fantasy of Flight led Gran Lioness by just one length but was slowly widening her lead while Salty Strike sat just behind Gran Lioness, under a tight hold by jockey Manoel Cruz. The half mile went in :46.09 with Fantasy of Flight’s lead now two lengths. Might had moved her way up to be a close fourth just off the flank of Salty Strike as the field entered the far turn.
Midway around the turn Salty Strike suddenly came to life and surged forward, closing the gap between her and Grand Lioness in a matter of strides and swiftly overtaking Fantasy of Flight to challenge for the lead. Bounding off the turn Salty Strike disposed of Fantasy of Flight, rushed to the fore and didn’t look back, winning by 3 ¾ lengths with just two taps of the whip.
Salty Strike seems to have turned things around for the best and could be headed for a promising summer campaign. Any horse related in some small way to Curlin is always able to capture my attention and as a half sister to Curlin Salty Strike has certainly captured my attention. Keep your eyes glued to this filly, you never know where she might strike next. The Test (gr.1) at Saratoga was mention by trainer Kenny McPeek as the filly’s next possible start, a race she would most likely meet leading sophomore filly Turbulent Descent.
[Salty Strike currently ranks #158 on the HRN's 3-year-old fillies ranking page; is it too low?]
Hilda’s Passion reestablished herself as the leading older female sprinter in the country when she dished out a solid thrashing to the Vagrancy Handicap (gr.2) on Saturday at Bemont Park, winning by 5 ¼ lengths in a brilliant time of 1:14.81, just missing the track record for 6 ½ furlongs.
Breaking from the gate Hilda’s Passion burst out of the gate and promptly stumbled, pitching forward slightly. She quickly righted herself and seized the lead without missing a beat. From there to the finish line it was just a matter of time and distance and she came through with flying colors on both counts. She ran the opening quarter :22.34 while jockey Javier Castellano keep her under a tight rein. Entering the far turn she continued to plow ahead, still full of run and well held, posting the half in a very quick :44.91. Striding off the turn Hilda’s Passion commanded a three length lead, now under an easy hand ride while Curlina, Tidal Pool and Streaker all gutted it out for the second spot. With just a wave of the whip Hilda’s Passion expanded her lead to more than five lengths crossing under the line while Curlina finished another four lengths ahead of Tidal Pool and Streaker who were separated by just a nose at the finish. Hilda’s Passion has now won three graded stakes his season and is making a strong case for divisional leadership.
Photo Courtesy of Coglianese Photos