12/27/2012 4:29PM

Fair Grounds: Silver Strike, drops in class, shortens up, adds blinkers

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Over the course of three months, expectations have shifted dramatically for a 2-year-old filly named Silver Strike.

When Silver Strike debuted Oct. 5 in a Keeneland sprint race, she went off at odds of almost 40-1 and rallied to win by a head. Three races later, Silver Strike is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in a first-level allowance race also open to $50,000 claimers and co-featured on an 11-race, stakes-less program Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Silver Strike’s elevated status, ironically, comes about a month after she turned in by far the worst performance of her career, a last-of-nine finish in the Golden Rod Stakes on Nov. 24 at Churchill. For at least three reasons, though, handicappers figure to be in a forgiving mood when it comes to Silver Strike’s Golden Rod flop.

First, a class drop from a Grade 2 stakes down to a class level at which Silver Strike was defeated by a neck Oct. 24 by Finding More, who won the Letellier Stakes this past Saturday at Fair Grounds.

Second, a cutback in distance from the two-turn Golden Rod to six furlongs. Silver Strike, who races with blinkers added for trainer David Carroll and Stoneway Farm, ran well in her two sprints and is bred along the lines of a horse that will thrive from six furlongs up to a one-turn mile.

And third, a general lack of strong competition in Saturday’s seventh race, where just six other horses were entered. The race’s only two-time winners, Suitefriendsofmine and Lucky Mary G., have beaten suspect opposition. Steve Asmussen and Bret Calhoun both have entrants, but Queen Cumulus for the former and Edolie for the latter have only modest maiden wins to their credit. Silver Strike’s chief rival could turn out to be Livin Peace, a last-out winner of a $50,000 maiden-claiming sprint at Fair Grounds. There is reason, however, to think Livin Peace might build on that performance: She won comfortably after setting a fast pace and was making her first dirt start after four races on Polytrack and turf.

Race 8, a second-level turf-sprint allowance for fillies and mares, has more substance than the 2-year-old race, but is in danger of falling apart because of weather. There’s a strong chance of storms late this week in New Orleans, and the Fair Grounds grass course has been wet for several days. If race 8 should remain on turf, stakes-droppers Dijarvo and Cat Lore look like major players. On dirt, Ire – who was entered main track only by trainer Al Stall – looks like a major player at a minor price.