Union Strike Overcomes Bad Start For Gallant Bloom Handicap

Mick and Wendy Ruis’ Union Strike recovered from a slow break and made the most of a ground-saving late run to win the Grade 2, $300,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap for fillies and mares at 6 ½ furlongs, the second of three stakes on Sunday’s card at Belmont Park.

Ridden by Jose Ortiz, Union Strike broke last of seven as Kirby’s Penny led through the opening quarter-mile in 22.57 seconds and the half in 45.09. Ortiz kept Union Strike along the inside, saving ground through the turn. Your Love, Lewis Bay, and Highway Star led the charge at the pacesetter in mid-stretch, but Ortiz found an opening along the rail and Union Strike powered through to hit the wire a half-length in front of Your Love.

Kirby’s Penny was third, followed by Still There, Holiday Disguise, Highway Star, and 9-5 favorite Lewis Bay.

The winning time was 1:15.24. Union Strike, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, returned $14.40 for a $2 win wager.

The victory was the third lifetime for the 4-year-old Union Rags filly, adding to a maiden-breaking win in the 2016 Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante as a 2-year-old and the listed Santa Paula in April 2017 at Santa Anita Park. The $165,000 winner’s share of the Gallant Bloom purse improved her career earnings to $537,625.

Union Strike was fourth last time out in the Grade 1 Ballerina on August 25 at Saratoga Race Course, where she closed from the back of the pack to cross the wire five lengths behind Marley’s Freedom.

“The last time she ran, she grabbed a quarter and in a previous race she went to her nose before, so I didn’t mind a little bit of a slow start, but when I saw the half going in 45 I thought we had a shot, because we needed a little bit of something to run into,” said Mick Ruis. “In the Ballerina, the field had a lot of speed and the pace was slow. She was the only one coming at the end real hard. Today, she gave a top effort.”

One race earlier, Peter Brant’s Fifty Five stalked the field before Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano urged her to a six-wide flourish out of the far turn, overtaking the challengers from the outside in the stretch to win the 10th running of the $125,000 John Hettinger for New York-bred fillies and mares 3-years-old and up.

Fifty Five, trained by Chad Brown, outkicked Munchkin Money by two lengths in winning her first stakes since the 2017 Ticonderoga, completing 1 1/8 miles on the inner turf listed as good in 1:48.98. The 4-5 favorite, a 4-year-old Get Stormy filly, returned $3.80.

Lady Joan, Tizzelle, Conquest Hardcandy, War Canoe, Feeling Bossy and Bonita Bianca completed the order of finish. Out of Trouble was scratched, as were main-track only entrants Frostie Anne and Take Charge Aubrey.

Ivery Sisters Racing’s Black Tide closed out the day’s stakes action with a 28-1 upset of the 43rd running of the $125,000 Ashley T. Cole for New York-breds at 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

The 6-year-old Hold Me Back gelding broke alertly from post 9 with Jose Lezcano aboard and darted to the front in the field of 12. Left alone on the lead, Black Tide posted fractions of 23.92, 47.81, and 1:12.07. He held a comfortable advantage at the quarter-pole and had enough left in the stretch to hold off challenges from Red Knight and Tapitation to secure the victory by 1 ¼ lengths at the wire.

Returning $59.50, Black Tide boosted his career earnings to $531,782 picking up his first stakes win since capturing the Mohawk in October of 2017 at Belmont.
Following Red Knight in second was Kharafa, Tapitation, Rapt, Winston’s Chance, Hit It Once More, Leaveematthegate completing the order of finish.

Black Tide’s victory guaranteed a Pick 6 carryover of $45,879 when live racing returns to Belmont on Wednesday. Tickets with 5-of-6 winners returned $849.
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