Donald and Donna Adam’s Strike Charmer defeated fan-favorite Lady Eli by three-quarters of a length in the latter’s comeback race from a battle with laminitis, handing her the first defeat of her career. Strike Charmer captured Saturday’s G2 Ballston Spa in a sharp final time of 1:38.77 for 1 1/16 miles over Saratoga’s firm turf, giving the 6-year-old daughter of Smart Strike just her second win on the year for Mark Hennig under Junior Alvarado.
“I saved as much horse as I could for the end but as soon as I turned from home, I saw the favorites just right there, still in front of me, and I still really hadn’t gotten into my filly,: Alvarado said. “I said, OK, we’ve got a good chance right now, just make sure to put her on the outside. She gave me a nice run at the end.”
Lady Eli broke well under Irad Ortiz, who allowed her to get into stride in her own time while guiding her over to the inside hedge. Meanwhile, Sympathy burst out to a three-length lead, setting quick fractions of :22.43, :45.55 and 1:09.16 while tracked by Excilly and Miss Temple City. Lady Eli was about seven lengths off the lead in fifth in the early going, patiently waiting along the inside rail. Strike Charmer was last of them all early on.
Through the far turn, Miss Temple City took over the lead with Sentiero Italia alongside. Lady Eli came up to make a three-wide bid across the track, but Alvarado waited aboard Strike Charmer. Saving ground along the turn, he angled Strike Charmer out at the head of the lane, and was just able to get past a very game Lady Eli in the late stages of the race to win by three-quarters of a length. Lady Eli was valiant in her second-place finish, while Sentiero Italia finished third.
“I didn’t know they’d go that fast early but we were where we needed to be with the pace being that way,” Hennig said.” When Junior got off of her last time he told me, ‘If I get her outside, she really wants to punch.’ He said she was making up ground last time and she really wasn’t even fully extending herself. He felt like having learned something from riding her once, it would be wise to just kind of sit. We talked in the paddock after watching the Flintshire race and I told him, ‘Don’t get stuck behind that rabbit because everybody’s going to be lined up at the quarter pole thinking they’re coming off the rail.’ Lady Eli took the overland route and I thought he did a great job of just kind of hiding out behind her and then trying to pounce. We were fortunate enough to run her down today.”
Bred in Kentucky by her owners, Strike Charmer has recorded a lifetime record of 6-4-3 from 21 starts. The mare improved her overall earnings to over $ 600,000 for the victory, her first at the Grade 2 level.
“She ran very well,” said trainer Chad Brown of Lady Eli. “I’m a little disappointed she got beat but I’m happy that she’s back to the races. It looked like she just got a little tired that last part. She made a big move there on the turn under a wicked pace and it just took a little too much out of her.”
Watch the race replay here:
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