06/30/2003 11:00PM

Strikes No Spares gets stakes win

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AUBURN, Wash. - Strikes No Spares's initial stakes win, in Saturday's one-mile King County Handicap, was a little late in coming, since the 4-year-old filly had contested seven stakes races and placed in four before winning one. Even so, it was accomplished in a manner that suggested there will be more to come.

Under leading rider Kevin Radke, Strikes No Spares lagged 10 lengths behind the pacesetting duo of Princess Forever and Silver Screen Girl through a half-mile run in 45.20 seconds, then smoked the third quarter-mile in 23.40 to be within three lengths of the leaders after six furlongs in 1:10. That presented a problem for Radke.

"We came up on those horses so fast, I didn't have time to look for a hole," he said. "I had to swing out wide turning into the stretch, and it cost me quite a bit of ground. Fortunately, I had plenty of horse."

Strikes No Spares hit the front with a furlong to run and drew out to score by 1 1/2 lengths over Silver Screen Girl in 1:35.40. Tamarack Bay came from even farther back than the winner to finish third, a half-length behind the runner up and three-quarters of a length behind her stablemate, Castle Mountain, who had stalked the early pace.

Grant Forster, who saddled Tamarack Bay and Castle Mountain, said neither ran according to plan.

"The one who was supposed to be up close was far back, and the one who was supposed to be far back was up close," he said. "Tamarack Bay will have blinkers on next time, and maybe that will help to get her into the race earlier."

Strikes No Spares, a daughter of Smart Strike and the Seattle Slew mare All Things Nice, was purchased privately by Jerre Paxton's Northwest Farms as a 2-year-old. She ran with distinction in the Chicago area last year, but was shipped to trainer Bob McMeans this spring. Her victory Saturday was preceded by a sixth behind Ema Bovary in the 6 1/2-furlong Hastings Park Handicap and a distant second to Silver Screen Girl in a one-mile allowance race.

"She really wasn't training well through the spring, but getting a couple of races into her seemed to help," McMeans said. "She picked up the pace after her last race, and she finally started finishing her works the way I thought she should. I told Radke she would surprise him today, and I think she did."

McMeans said Strikes No Spares will go next in the 1 1/16-mile Boeing Handicap July 20.

Heads has luck of the Irish

Hastings Park-based trainer Barbara Heads did it again in Sunday's 1 1/16-mile Irish Day Handicap for 3-year-old fillies.

Last year Heads brought the unheralded Always a Dixie to Emerald to post a $52.60 surprise win in the Washington State Legislator's purse, then proved it was no fluke by bringing the filly back to win both the King County Handicap and the $100,000 Emerald Distaff en route to older filly or mare of the meet honors.

Sunday, Heads sent out Brave Miss, who had just won her maiden at Emerald in her previous start, to upset the Irish Day at 10-1. Under Ben Russell, Brave Miss stalked the runaway pacesetter Top Penny through six furlongs in 1:09.40, then reeled her in at the sixteenth marker and quickly drew out to score by 3 3/4 lengths in 1:43. Bisbee's Prospect, the 4-5 favorite, was beaten nine lengths in third without an apparent excuse.

"I really did expect her to run a big race today, even though she had just gotten her maiden win," Heads said. "Her maiden win was at a mile, and she really needs to go at least that far. She also really loves the mile track here. She is not a big filly, but she has a big stride and she is a lot more comfortable on this track than she is at home. I think you'll be seeing a lot more of her down here."

Owner Leif Norsdahl of Vancouver purchased Brave Miss, a Washington-bred daughter of Delineator and Stormy Verdict, from the 2001 WTBA summer sale for $8,500.

Kent stakes debut for Cascade Corona

The competition will become stiffer when the 3-year-old fillies meet next in the Kent Handicap at 1 1/16 miles July 26. Divisional leader Youcan'ttakeme, now recovered from a minor injury suffered in her stall, is expected to be back for the Kent.

Cascade Corona is likely to make her stakes debut in the Kent. An 8 1/4-length winner of her only start at 2, Cascade Corona made her 3-year-old return in an allowance race Saturday and won by 6 1/4 lengths in 1:15.40 for 6 1/2 furlongs.

"She is the most professional horse I've ever had at that age," said Kay Cooper, assistant to trainer Jim Penney. "There is no question there is a stakes race in her future. She's pure class."

Cascade Corona, a daughter of Pine Bluff and Warna Corna, by Fappiano, races for breeders Rick and Debbie Pabst.