06/04/2011 5:46PM

Churchill Downs: Cruz guides Salty Strike to Dogwood score

Reed Palmer Photography/Churchill Downs
Salty Strike wins the Dogwood at Churchill Downs for her first stakes score. The win was the first in a stakes at Churchill for her jockey, Manny Cruz.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Salty Strike surged to her first stakes victory Saturday, getting a perfect stalking trip under Manny Cruz in the 37th running of the Grade 3, $109,300 Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs.

While both she and Might, the odds-on favorite in a field of six 3-year-old fillies, assumed good positions down the backstretch behind Fantasy of Flight and Gran Lioness, only Salty Strike went on. She swooped past Fantasy of Flight, the 2-1 second choice, and proceeded to win by 3 3/4 lengths, finishing the one-turn mile in 1:35.39 over a fast track and returning $12.80 to win as third choice.

Fantasy of Flight, making just her second start, held second, another 1 1/4 lengths before Gran Lioness. Angelica Zapata was fourth, followed by Might and Holy Heavens. Juanita and Henny’s Hurricane were early scratches.

Salty Strike, a Smart Strike filly owned by Craig Singer and trained by Ken McPeek, was winning for the third time in seven career starts. She was third in the Debutante Stakes here last summer and a distant fourth in the Honeybee at Oaklawn in March in her two prior stakes tries and was coming off a seven-length allowance romp at Churchill.

“Our filly was doing great, but it looked like this was going to be a really tough race,” said McPeek.

The stakes victory was the first at Churchill for Cruz, a 41-year-old Brazilian who had ridden primarily in South Florida since moving to the United States in 2000.

Thirty minutes later, McPeek also sent out the winner of the other Grade 3 stakes on the card, Noble’s Promise in the Aristides.

Might, a full sister to 2010 handicap champion Blame, “just never picked it up for me at the end,” said her jockey, Julien Leparoux.