Saturday, September 17, 2011

Not much of a surprise, but he finally strikes

A year and six days after nearly posting a shocking upset in his debut effort at 2, Surprise Strike returned for the third time to Presque Isle Downs and finally broke through for his first lifetime win, this time as the favorite.

Surprise Strike becomes the 106th winner from 187 juveniles I selected on this blog from various auctions in 2010.

On Sept. 10, 2010, the bay gelding by Stormy Atlantic-Unbridled Femme, by Unbridled, was sent off at 20/1 in maiden special weight company at Presque. Running sixth early, rider Scott Spieth sneaked the horse through on the rail and he rallied to within a half-length of defeating 3/1 second-choice Goodtimehadbyall (who has now earned nearly $158,000).

It was a promising, second-place debut. So promising that Surprise Strike's connections, owner Orlando Dirienzo and trainer Jeremiah Englehart, aimed higher. The horse was sent to Woodbine for his next two starts, where he finished second in a Polytrack route to Bluegrass Dreamer, then fifth in his last effort at 2.

Shelved for the winter, Surprise Strike returned to Presque Isle for his 3-year-old debut on June 29, and was reunited with Spieth. He finished second that day to Phipps Stable's Surreptitiously. Then, it was off to Saratoga, for a pair of unplaced efforts in tough maiden special company on grass.

Back at the scene of his nearest successes, but without his partnership with Spieth renewed (rather, with Paul Nicol Jr. in the irons), Surprise Strike overcame an awkward break to dispose of a maiden special weight field at Presque Isle on Friday evening. He came home a confident two lengths in front at about even money. Spieth came home second aboard Alfarooq.

Surprise Strike was bred in Kentucky by Duzee Stable. He now has a win and three seconds from seven lifetime starts in Dirienzo's colors, for $57,949.

I shortlisted Surprise Strike as a Priority 2 horse on a 48-horse shortlist of prospects for a bargain-minded client at last year's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale. While bidding for the horse went higher than we came to spend (a $34,000 RNA), that bid was still more than $10,000 below the sales average.

The horse breezed 23 flat over a slow Timonium track at the Maryland sale, and according to consignor True South LLC he did it after being medicated for throat swelling due to a possible snakebite. His dam was a stakes-winner; his second dam a G3-placer who was by Deputy Minister. And considering my first impression of the front end of the horse as they led him from his stall into the daylight was "Holy ..." I was a bit surprised he didn't bring more than that $34,000 bid in the ring as Hip 380, which wasn't enough to buy him.

Ultimately, I decided Surprise Strike's hindquarters weren't as impressive as his shoulder, neck and chest, but not so much that I wouldn't have wanted him. His pastern angle was good, albeit perhaps just a tad longer than I'd prefer. He looks splendid at speed, though, especially when finishing in front.

With 106 winners, 56.7 percent of my 187 selections now have broken maiden. He is the 25th winner from that 48-horse EASMAY shortlist (52.1 percent), which isn't too bad considering the horses I selected were sold or were RNAs for an average bid that was less than half the sale average. That group happens to include four stakes-placers, bought for an average of $29,000.

I need to update the full records and earnings at home, but I believe the 187-member class has now equaled in earnings -- or nearly so -- the roughly $6.44 million bid on them at the sales. Earnings from the EASMAY class exceeded the approximately $1.13 million bid on them some weeks ago.

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