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Union Strike, second in her career debut July 31, broke her maiden in style Saturday with an upset victory in the featured G1 $300,000 Del Mar Debutante for two-year-old fillies.
With jockey Martin Garcia in the saddle, Union Strike overcame a wide trip to take the lead in midstretch and draw clear to win by two and one-quarter lengths in 1:23.22 for the seven furlongs. Thus, the daughter of Union Rags became the third maiden to capture the Debutante. Cindy’s Hero accomplished the feat in 2000 and Sweet Catomine duplicated the achievement in 2004.
American Cleopatra, a full sister to Triple Crown champion American Pharoah, went postward the 17-10 favorite and finished second, a nose in front of Champagne Room, with Noted and Quoted fourth in the field of seven fillies.
Union Strike, purchased for $375,00 at the Ocala Breeders Sale last April, is owned by Ruis Racing, Inc. and trained by 25-year-old Shelbe Ruis who won the first stakes of her brief career in a Grade I event.
Union Strike, runner-up to American Cleopatra in the aforementioned maiden race, went postward at 7-1 and paid $17.40, $7.80 and $4.40 while earning $180,000. American Cleopatra paid $3.60 and $2.60, while Champagne Room, victress in the Sorrento Stakes this summer and second choice at 5-2 Saturday, returned $2.40 to show.
In the afternoon’s supporting feature, the $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes, Bowies Hero provided jockey Rafael Bejarano with his third win of the day by scoring a one-length victory in the one-mile event over the infield grass course.
Off at 9-2 in a field of 13 two-year-olds, Bowies Hero gamely held off the late stretch challenge of the 2-1 favorite Big Score, with Billy Big a distant third, six and one-quarter lengths farther back. Saldamante was fourth.
Bowies Hero, a son of Artie Schiller owned by Agave Racing Stable and Hebert Bloodstock and trained by Phil D’Amato, was timed in 1:36.40 and paid $11.40, $5.40 and $3.80. Big Score returned $3.40 and $2.60, while Billy Big returned $3.40 to show. It was Bowies Hero’s second victory in as many starts and first money of $60,000 increased the colt’s earnings to $72,240. He had broken his maiden July 16 at Lone Star Park after which he was purchased by his current owners.
MARTIN GARCIA (Union Strike, winner) – “No special instructions for me today; they just said ‘Keep her happy.’ I’ve worked this filly the last few times and I broke her out of the gate one time (Aug. 22, 5f 1:00hg). Something wasn’t quite right. The gateman (assistant starter) suggested we try a different bit on her. The one they were using was too strong. So they made the change and it’s made a big difference. She was a runner today. And I think the farther they go, the better she’s going to be.”
RAFAEL BEJARANO (American Cleopatra, second) – “No excuses. She ran her race.”
MARIO GUTIERREZ (Champagne Room, third) – “Today just wasn’t her best day.”
MIKE SMITH (Noted and Quoted, fourth) – “Today wasn’t her “A” race. I’d give her about a “B.” She’s got an “A,” but she didn’t bring it today.”
KENT DESORMEAUX (Miss Southern Miss, fifth) – “I’m banking on her needing grass.”
VICTOR ESPINOZA (Morganite, 6th) – “She was cruising along…..and then that was it.”
SHELBE RUIS (Union Strike, winner) – “She’s a nice filly and everything went pretty smooth getting her ready for this race. Her only issue was the gate. She broke slowly in her first race, but we worked on it and she broke good this time. She gets a little nervous in there, but I think the outside post this time really helped, too. We always thought she would turn out to be a really nice horse and she has so far. We didn’t have any worries going up against those other horses. They had all the pressure. We were the longshot, but we knew what we had so we were really excited.”
FRACTIONS: :22.16 :45.25 1:10.13 1:23.22
The stakes win was the second of the meet for rider Garcia, but his first in the Del Mar Debutante. He now has 26 stakes wins at Del Mar.
The stakes win was the first ever at Del Mar for trainer Ruis. The first-year trainer had won two races earlier at the meet and one previously at Santa Anita.
Union Strike becomes the third maiden to win the Del Mar Debutante. Previously, Cindy’s Hero (2000) and Sweet Catomine (2004) had done it.
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