Dismissed at 9-1, three year old filly Union Strike provided veteran jockey Brice Blanc with his 1,000th career win, as she rallied from off the pace to win Sunday’s $75,000 Santa Paula Stakes at Santa Anita by 1 ½ lengths while getting 6 ½ furlongs in 1:15.92. Owned and trained by Mick Ruis, she had been winless in two starts since taking the Grade I Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 3.
When asked how he felt about winning his 1,000th race, Blanc, 43 and a native of Lyon, France, responded: “I tried not to think about it, but it’s hard and it’s always in the back of your mind. When you’re one or two away and it’s not coming, it can be frustrating.
“This filly keeps improving and I’m glad to be a part of the team. I’m grateful to be a part of all of it. Every time you win big races and you get a milestone victory it’s just so special…I was really excited when he asked me to work her a couple of mornings. I loved the change of plans when Mick decided to scratch her yesterday and run today.”
Originally trained by Ruis’s daughter, Shelby Ruis, Union Strike was saddled by Craig Dollase in her last two starts, the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies here on Nov. 5 and the Grade I Starlet at Los Alamitos on Dec. 10—both run at a mile and a sixteenth.
“She had been training great and we were thinking about running her long on the grass yesterday in the Providencia (Grade III, 1 1/8 miles turf), but with Sircat Sally (winner) in there, it looked like a tough spot,” said Ruis. “She had three bullet works and we were pretty confident. She’s had shins, and I just had to give her time to heal. All the riders that have gotten on her say she moves really well and we think she can go long. It’s a good option.”
The fourth choice in a field of seven 3-year-old fillies, Union Strike, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Union Rags, paid $20.20, $6.60 and $4.40. With an overall mark of 5-2-1-0, she picked up $47,160 for the win, increasing her earnings to $265,760.
A 9 ¼ length first-out maiden winner on Feb. 12, Selcourt, who was ridden by Tyler Baze, engaged Chalon for the early lead, took command around the far turn and proved second best, finishing 3 ¼ lengths in front of longshot Auntjenn.
Off as the 6-5 favorite, Selcourt paid $3.00 and $2.60.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Auntjenn was the biggest price in the field at 27-1 and paid $6.40 to show.
Fractions on the race were 21.85, 44.65 and 1:09.52.
Source: Santa Anita Park