01/15/2010 1:00AM

Mile may be too much for Strike the Tiger


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Strike the Tiger made trainer Wesley Ward an instant worldwide racing celebrity last summer when he became the first American-trained horse to win a race at famed Royal Ascot. But Ward may actually be pulling off an even greater training feat if he can get Strike the Tiger to carry his speed a mile on turf Saturday in the $100,000 Dania Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Strike the Tiger is by Tiger Ridge out of the mare R Lucky Strike, whose only victory in three career starts for Ward came at 5 1/2 furlongs in her debut. Strike the Tiger won his first three starts, including the Windsor Castle Stakes at Ascot, at distances ranging from 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 furlongs. In his lone try around two turns, Strike the Tiger finished seventh in the 1 1/16-mile Cradle Stakes over a sealed track at River Downs in his 2-year-old finale on Sept. 7.

"They took the Cradle off the turf about 15 minutes before post time," Ward recalled. "I was watching the race here at Gulfstream, so by the time they sorted it all out it was too late to scratch. To be honest, I am a little concerned about him getting the distance on Saturday. I just don't know if his breeding will get him a mile in this situation. In addition, they are calling for rain, so I'm not even sure I'll run him if the track is wet."

Ward said he's also worried about the fact that Strike the Tiger drew post 12 in a field of 14 3-year-olds for the Dania Beach. John Velazquez, who rode Strike the Tiger at Ascot, will be aboard.

"Normally, I just go to the paddock when Johnny V. is riding, shake his hand, and leave it up to him," Ward said. "But in this particular case, considering the post, I'll be interested to see what he's thinking, and then we'll decide if taking him back and making one run might be the best way to go."

There are plenty of options to choose from for those inclined to try to beat Strike the Tiger in the Dania Beach. Among them is Bim Bam, a versatile two-time stakes winner based at Calder with trainer David Brownlee. Bim Bam has not started since rallying to a one-length victory in his turf debut in Calder's Appleton Juvenile on Nov. 14.

Trainer Christophe Clement sends out the undefeated Nordic Truce off an impressive 4 1/2-length come-from-behind tally at Calder in his debut.

"He won a weak maiden race at Calder but was very impressive the way he did it, coming from way out of it like that," Clement said. "It's a big step up, but at this time of year, a 3-year-old can do that."