08/21/2013 3:27PM

Remington Park: Strategic Leader in seventh Red Earth Stakes

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Dustin Orona Photography
Strategic Leader has not raced since the Remington meet a year ago.

Strategic Leader will be making his seventh appearance in the $50,000 Red Earth when he runs in Friday night’s renewal of the Oklahoma-bred fixture at Remington Park. A field of 12 will start in the 7 1/2-furlong turf stakes for 3-year-olds and up.

Strategic Leader first ran in the race in 2006, when it was restricted to 3-year-olds. His next appearance came in 2008, and he won. Strategic Leader’s other Red Earth win came last year at the age of 9. His competition Friday includes Z Rockstar, recent winner of a $62,500 optional claimer at Churchill Downs, and Ted’s Folly, a past winner of the Springboard Mile at Remington.

“I thought the race pulled up as tough as it’s been in a while, but there’s a lot of speed, and he’s a horse that’s got to have a lot of pace in front of him,” said Roger Engel, who trains Strategic Leader. “Hopefully, he’ll get geared up late.”

Strategic Leader has not raced since the Remington meet a year ago, but the pattern is the same one he followed into last year’s Red Earth. With turf racing in Oklahoma contained to Remington, the horse was freshened with an eye to the meet at which he has also won three runnings of the Oklahoma Classics Turf.

“He’s not a dirt horse, and turf opportunities are limited in Oklahoma at this time,” Engel said.

“He’s working good. I think he’ll be plenty fit.”

Engel, who wins at a 37-percent rate with horses returning from layoffs of 180 days or more, won the recent Will Rogers Downs training title in Claremore, Okla. Strategic Leader races for his breeders, H & S Farms, and is to be ridden by Cliff Berry.

Also on the card is a one-mile allowance for 3-year-olds that could produce starters for next month’s Grade 3, $400,000 Oklahoma Derby. Black Bear will be stretching out to two turns after winning a pair of Prairie Meadows allowance sprints by some 15 lengths. The field also includes He Has Bling, the winner of the $75,000 Texas Stallion Stakes, who will advance to the Oklahoma Derby with the right kind of performance Friday night, said his trainer, Danele Durham.

Durham also trains 2012 Springboard Mile winner Texas Bling, whose status for the Oklahoma Derby is “questionable,” as he has recently returned to training following a freshening. “He’s coming back from his layoff and we haven’t put the hammer down yet,” Durham said of his first work back. “We’re looking at a fall campaign.”