09/03/2009 11:00PM

Strike the Tiger will have his speed tested


Strike the Tiger, the 2-year-old gelding who pulled a 33-1 upset in the Windsor Castle Stakes at the Royal Ascot meet in June, will be a solid favorite Monday in the signature race of the River Downs meet, the $200,000 Cradle Stakes.

Strike the Tiger is unbeaten in three career races, all of them turf sprints. The Cradle, at 1 1/16 miles on turf, figures as a very interesting test of stamina for a horse who has led throughout in each of those victories.

Ariel Smith has been named by owner-trainer Wesley Ward to ride Strike the Tiger, who was assigned post 7 in a field of 10 2-year-olds. Strike the Tiger has trained in recent weeks at Saratoga, where he posted a bullet drill Tuesday. Ward has requested an equipment change of blinkers off for the Cradle after the gelding wore them in all three prior starts.

If Strike the Tiger can't handle the longer distance, then the 33rd running of the Cradle becomes a wide-open affair. Leading challengers include Scottkeith'skitten, winner of an Aug. 6 maiden turf route at Saratoga; Fantastico Roberto, a Team Valor International colt getting first-time Lasix in his second U.S. start; and Gleam of Hope and Eddie Set Go, the one-two finishers in the Aug. 15 Cradle prep at River.

From the hedge, this is the Cradle field: Mano Point, Scottkeith'skitten, Harrods Creek, Eddie Set Go, Fantastico Roberto, Marathon Moon, Strike the Tiger, Guys Reward, Pathoki, and Gleam of Hope.

This will be the third year the Cradle has been run on turf. Officials at River Downs in Cincinnati switched their marquee race from the dirt in 2007 in an attempt to lure a different niche of 2-year-olds.

* A silent auction and other fund-raising efforts will be held Sunday at River Downs, with proceeds going to help offset medical expenses by former longtime River jockeys Gary Birzer and Justin Vitek.

* The highlight of a stand-alone eight-race Sunday card at River is an $8,900 turf allowance that drew an overflow field of 11 fillies and mares (only 10 can start), with Mini Mom and Indian Ink the top contenders. First post is 2 p.m.

* Perry Ouzts long ago wrapped up the jockey title at the River Downs meet, which began April 17. Into the final four-day stretch, Ouzts had ridden 126 winners. Among trainers, Joe Woodard held a 46-41 lead over Charlie Lawson.