Manitoba's Missile Writes Her Own Harlequin Ending

Author: 
International Thoroughbred Digest
Month Published: 
August, 2005

HARLEQUIN RANCHES’ GOLD STRIKE, THE POST-TIME EVEN MONEY FAVOURITE, ROMPED TO A 31/2 LENGTH WIN IN THE $500,000 LABATT WOODBINE OAKS, THE PREMIER EVENT FOR CANADIAN-BRED THREE-YEAROLD FILLIES, SUNDAY, JUNE 12 AT WOODBINE.

With jockey Jim McAleney astride the daughter of Smart Strike, Gold Strike was in a stalking position right from the start of the 50th edition of the mile and one-eighth classic; stablemate Bosskiri took the field through a sizzling first quarter in :22.70 and a half in :46.71.

As the pacesetter began to tire going into the far turn, Gold Strike moved to challenge on the outside, while the lightly-raced Ready and Alluring, ridden by Javier Castellano, squeaked through on the rail.

What appeared to be the stage for a stretch duel, though, quickly evaporated when Gold Strike pulled away powerfully for the victory, timed in 1:51.63.

strike

Reflecting the dominance she has shown in the 2005 filly ranks, Gold Strike, a daughter of Smart Strike, was dubbed the "Manitoba Missile" by Woodbine track announcer Dan Loiselle. Photograph By Diane Denby

Victorious Ami wound up a distant third, more than 13 lengths behind the winner. It was Gold Strike’s second straight stakes triumph after scoring in the Selene Stakes,May 22 in similar style.

“The pace unfolded the way we hoped,” said McAleney, celebrating his first Oaks win after a couple of runner-up finishes in 1990 (Bundle Bits) and 1995 (Kathie’s Colleen). “You can always usually get a good trip when you’re riding the horse that’s got the tactical speed and the turn of foot that this filly does and finish up with the talent.”

“I was more than pleased. I watched Ready and Alluring start to make a move going to the three-eighths pole and she was going to get through and I didn’t want her to get the jump on me. So I called on Gold Strike and she responded so well and basically just out-footed that filly down the lane. I think there was something left if somebody else had come.”

By winning, Gold Strike became the first Manitoba-bred (dubbed ‘the Manitoba Missile’ by track announcer Dan Loiselle at the wire) to win the Oaks since the race began in 1956. She also kept several streaks alive, becoming the third filly in a row to win the Selene and then the Oaks, following Too Late Now in 2003 and Eye of the Sphynx in 2004.

She’s also the second daughter of Smart Strike to win the race, after Eye of the Sphynx’s win last year.

She also became the eighth consecutive mutual favourite to capture the Oaks, a race which has produced a 56% success rate for the post-time choice, well above the traditional 33% for other races.

Gold Strike was one of five fillies (half the field) saddled in the Oaks by veteran conditioner Reade Baker, as he celebrated his first win in the classic. His other starters were Whiskey and Low (4th), Bosskiri (5th), Pirouetting (7th) and River Nore (9th). Last year, Baker had three of the five starters but finished second, fourth and fifth.

“When Jimmy got a stalking position (behind Bosskiri) I basically thought it was over,” said Baker. “The filly that was second is a real good filly, though.”

Baker also revealed that he was ‘petrified’ earlier in the week after Gold Strike hurt her foot on the weekend. “I would’ve said on Wednesday morning at seven o’clock there was a 90% chance we weren’t going to run.” But Gold Strike worked a bullet three furlongs in :34 3/5 seconds on Thursday, indicating her readiness and was given the green light for the Oaks. Her win today was a $300,000 bonanza for owner and breeder Dick Bonnycastle.

Gold Strike has never been worse than second in six starts, now with four wins and purse earnings of $542,242. Last year, she campaigned at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg, winning two of three, before shipping to Woodbine in October to the care of Baker. For runner-up Ready and Alluring, owned by Bill Sorokolit and trained by Randy Schulhofer, it was also an excellent performance, as she was trying to make history, too, by winning the Oaks in only her third career start.