09/18/2011 8:40AM

Charles Town Oaks: Strike the Moon withstands Groupie Doll's late charge

Mike Montgomery Photo
Julian Pimentel guides Strike the Moon to her first career stakes victory in the $400,000 Charles Town Oaks.

For a few anxious  moments Saturday night at Charles Town, trainer Mike Trombetta felt like he was reliving the stretch run of the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks, a race in which his filly Strike the Moon led by 3 1/2 lengths with a furlong remaining, only to wind up a head behind the fast-closing St John’s River. The same thing looked like it might happen in the $400,000 Charles Town Oaks as Strike the Moon’s three-length advantage at the eighth pole was being gobbled up by deep closer Groupie Doll.

This time, however, Strike the Moon didn’t have to settle for second best. Equipped with blinkers for the first time, Strike the Moon ($11) and jockey Julian Pimentel held off 2-1 favorite Groupie Doll by three-quarters of a length to gain her elusive first stakes victory in the richest race among six stakes on Race for the Ribbon night.

In each of her first three stakes tries, Strike the Moon finished second, losing by neck in the Miss Preakness, a length in the $200,000 Jostle, and a head in the $300,000 Delaware Oaks. She then flattened out and finished fourth in the Grade 3 Monmouth Oaks, prompting Trombetta to make an equipment change, adding blinkers.

“This filly may have lost a little focus last time out. So, we thought it is a big night; we are going to do it right tonight,” Trombetta said. “I was having flashbacks of the Delaware Oaks in the lane, but Julian did a great job.”

Pimentel kept Strike the Moon, a daughter of Malibu Moon, in a good stalking position, two lengths off the early pace of 22.92 and 46.29 seconds set by 47-1 outsider My Sunshine Gal. Strike the Moon made her move at the quarter pole, surged to the front to open up by three lengths, and had enough left to withstand the charge of Groupie Doll, who came from last of 10 with three furlongs remaining to get second. My Sunshine Gal held off Hot Summer, winner of the Grade 3 Victory Ride at Saratoga last time out, for third.

In winning for the third time in eight starts, Strike the Moon completed seven furlongs in 1:24.97.

“I got the perfect trip,” Pimentel said. “I sat right off the two speed front-runners and, when I asked her to go, she took off. I could hear the others coming but, I just put my head down and kept riding. The blinkers also may have helped keep her a little more focused tonight.”

In the other stakes:

Lemon Juice ($6.60), racing for the third time since Aug. 31, led a one-two finish for trainer Dane Kobiskie and owner PTK when he scored a one-length victory in the $100,000 Charles Town Juvenile.

Lemon Juice’s stablemate, the filly Doe, nosed out 3-2 favorite Blings Express for second.

Lemon Juice, now 3 for 6 lifetime, ran the seven furlongs in 1:27.06.

“This horse is a closing sprinter,” said winning rider Alberto Delgado. “As soon as I broke I tried to let him settle and, when I asked him at the quarter pole he responded. Only thing I had to do was keep him clear.”

Horse-for-the-course Don’tgetsuspicious ($6.60), a Maryland-based 5-year-old mare trained by Hugh McMahon, improved her record at Charles Town to 6 for 8 with a three-quarter-length victory over 27-1 longshot Staged Affair in the $75,000 Pink Ribbon for fillies and mares. She covered seven furlongs in 1:26.29.

Dancing Anna ($7.80), part of an uncoupled entry for Laurel Park-based trainer John Robb, got up by a head over Swift Artist in the $75,000 Miss Shenandoah for 2-year-old fillies. Dancing Anna, who provided the first career stakes victory for jockey Antonio Lopez, ran 4 1/2 furlongs in 52.44 seconds.

Lucy’s Bob Boy ($3.60), returning 13 days after winning his career debut, outfought Paco Smart by a neck in the $50,000 Henry Mercer Memorial for West Virginia-bred 2-year-old colts and geldings.

Navy Chapel ($3), adding Lasix after winning her first start a month ago, cruised to a 5 1/4-length victory in the $50,000 Rachel’s Turn for West Virginia-bred 2-year-old fillies.