09/03/2016 10:09PM

Union Strike gives rookie trainer first stakes win in Del Mar Debutante

Benoit & Associates
Union Strike, under Martin Garcia, puts herself in the picture for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies by winning the Del Mar Debutante.

DEL MAR, Calif.- At the start of the Del Mar summer meeting in July, Union Strike was considered the leading 2-year-old filly in the stable of first-year trainer Shelbe Ruis. It turns out the filly is the best of her age group in Southern California.

Saturday, Union Strike ($17.40) rallied wide in the final three furlongs to win her stakes debut in the $300,690 Del Mar Debutante, the meeting’s top race for 2-year-old fillies.

The victory was the first stakes win for Ruis, 25, and puts Union Strike on course for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita on Nov. 5. Ruis trains Union Strike for her parents, Mick and Wendy, who invested heavily to stock their daughter’s stable this year with promising 2-year-olds.

Union Strike was purchased for $375,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale of 2-year-olds in-training in April, the same month Ruis began training.

Breaking from the outside in the Debutante, Union Strike was the only maiden among seven runners and was the second-longest shot in the field. Ridden by Martin Garcia, Union Strike was sixth after a half-mile and rallied wide under urging to reach contention in the stretch. Third with a furlong remaining, Union Strike took the lead in the final furlong and won by 2 1/4 lengths.

“I knew she could get there,” Shelbe Ruis said. “I think she’ll be better at a mile or a mile and a sixteenth.”

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American Cleopatra, the 8-5 favorite and a full sister to 2015 Horse of the Year American Pharoah, finished second, a nose in front of Champagne Room, the winner of the Grade 2 Sorrento Stakes on Aug. 6.

Noted and Quoted finished fourth, followed by Miss Southern Miss, Morganite, and Holy Mosey.

Union Strike ran seven furlongs in 1:23.22. Morganite set an early pace of 22.16 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, and 45.25 for a half-mile, but faded from contention on the turn.

Union Strike was second to American Cleopatra in a maiden race on July 31 after a slow start. Ruis said last weekend that Union Strike was schooled frequently in the gate in August. The filly started without incident in the Debutante.

“The only issue was the gate issue,” Ruis said. “She looked good this time. I think the outside post helped her. We thought she was a nice horse and she turned out to be.”

Union Strike has earned $192,600. The win on Saturday was an early birthday present for Ruis. She turns 26 on Wednesday.