05/31/2007 12:00AM

Strike Softly hard to beat off last


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Strike Softly made quite a splash in her season debut, taking the Grade 3 Hendrie Stakes by four lengths on Polytrack. She will try to duplicate that result on the grass in the Grade 2, $300,000 Nassau Stakes Saturday at Woodbine.

Strike Softly finished third in last year's Sovereign Award voting for champion 3-year-old filly, an award she might have won had she not gotten sick prior to the Woodbine Oaks, in which she ran poorly.

"I probably shouldn't have run her, but the Oaks only comes along once a year," trainer Mark Frostad said.

Strike Softly rallied stoutly along the inside to win the May 13 Hendrie. Her rapid 6 1/2-furlong clocking, 1:16.20 seconds, translates into a big 96 Beyer Speed Figure.

Frostad said he was a little surprised by Strike Softly's impressive comeback.

"I thought it looked like a pretty tough race going in," he said. "Most of them had been running, so I thought she might need a race, but she certainly didn't. She's really developed. She's a much bigger, stronger filly than she was last year."

Frostad said he has few concerns with going back to the grass with Strike Softly, who won the Carotene and Ontario Damsel Stakes over that surface in 2006.

"The way she ran on it last year, it shouldn't be a problem," he said. "I wouldn't want a yielding turf."

Todd Kabel will ride Strike Softly for Sam-Son Farm.

Also in the 1 1/16-mile Nassau are Elle Runaway, Kentucky shipper May Night, and Essential Edge.

Elle Runaway made two starts over the winter at Fair Grounds, finishing a close fourth in the Furl Sail Handicap and a non-threatening fifth in the Grade 3 Bayou BC Handicap.

Elle Runaway has worked quickly on Polytrack since her most recent outing, a wide third in a Keeneland allowance. She placed in two Grade 2 turf stakes here last year, the Dance Smartly and the Canadian.

May Night won her maiden in the restricted P.G. Johnson Stakes in 2005 at Saratoga. She didn't win again until her most recent start, in a second-level allowance at Churchill. She lost by only three lengths when fifth in the Jan. 27 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Turf at Gulfstream.

Essential Edge, winner of the 2006 Ontario Colleen Stakes, was a distant sixth in both of her starts at Keeneland in April.