10/06/2012 7:32AM

Turf Paradise: First Strike has last say in opening-day Bienvenidos Stakes

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PHOENIX - First Strike finished strongly from far back to capture Friday's $35,000 Bienvenidos Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong race that helped kicked off the 156-day meet which runs through May 7.

Owned by Charles Garvey and TG Racing LLC and trained by Robertino Diodoro, First Strike, a 4-year-old gelding, was slow into stride, sitting 10th of 11 early under Jorge Carreno. He bided his time while first Streakin’ Mohican and then Jamaican Memories set the pace, commenced a long sustained run, came wide into the lane and got up to win by a head. Adriatic Moon staked and rallied for second, with Seven Tuff, last early, finishing third. Atta Boy Roy, the favorite, pressed the early pace but gave way to finish 10th.

First Strike paid $13.60 and ran the distance in 1:17.17. The winner’s share of $21,049 pushes his career bankroll to $223,879 from six wins in 16 starts.

* Scott Stevens, on the day before his 52nd birthday, escaped serious injury in the race prior to the Bienvenidos when his mount Stormdriver clipped heels coming into the lane, tossing Stevens. The six-time Turf Paradise leading rider was not injured; neither was Stormdriver.

“Do you believe this?” said Stevens. “I’m going to be 52 tomorrow [Saturday]. Some birthday present. And the worst part is I had plenty of horse and could have won.”