05/12/2006 12:00AM

Gold Strike back in Hendrie


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Gold Strike makes her highly anticipated seasonal debut against a tough group of fillies and mares Sunday at Woodbine in the Grade 3, $150,000 Hendrie Stakes.

Gold Strike won the Sovereign Award for last year's champion 3-year-old, and was third in the voting for Canadian Horse of the Year. She captured the Grade 3 Selene Stakes and the $502,000 Woodbine Oaks, before finishing a valiant third in the Queen's Plate.

Trainer Reade Baker said the deep nature of the track hindered Gold Strike's chances in the 1 1/4-mile Plate, and she came out of it with a problem.

"She had some minor tears in her high suspensories," Baker said. "I think it came from the deep track. I think the track made her stop - it wasn't the [competition] or the distance."

Gold Strike was entered and then scratched from the April 16 Whimsical Stakes, a move Baker said he later regretted.

"The days prior to the race, I thought the track was playing to speed," Baker said. "I was afraid of putting her in a spot where the front-runners would dominate, but off-the-pace horses did all right. In hindsight, I wish I would have run her."

Baker believes that Gold Strike is ready to put her best hoof forward.

"She couldn't be doing any better," Baker said. "I think she'll run super."

New York shipper Great Intentions, Whimsical runner-up High Button Shoes, and Kentucky invader Givememore are other possibilities in the 6 1/2-furlong Hendrie.

Great Intentions, trained by Mike Hushion, capped a three-race win streak in the Grade 2 First Flight Handicap at Belmont in October. She won a listed stakes in her penultimate outing, and was a troubled fifth last time behind Smokey Glacken and Magnolia Jackson in the Grade 2 Distaff BC Handicap at Aqueduct.

High Button Shoes could be an up-and-comer in the local filly and mare division. She put away four rivals on the front end in the six-furlong Whimsical before giving way grudgingly to Abounding Truth. She has breezed five-eighths in a bullet 1:00.20 twice since then.

"She's really been working well," said trainer Mark Frostad. "She's coming into the race in good order. Hopefully, she's right on her game. The distance will suit her fine."

High Button Shoes is by the late Carson City, who is the broodmare sire of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro.

"She could be worth a lot of money if she wins a stakes," Frostad said. "She's a lovely looking filly."