10/31/2016 12:36PM

Union Strike must overcome two-month layoff

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Barbara D. Livingston
Union Strike hasn't raced since winning the Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 3

ARCADIA, Calif. – Her status as one of the handful of Grade 1 winners in the field makes Union Strike one of the horses to beat Saturday in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita. As a romping winner of the Del Mar Debutante on Sept. 3, she clearly has the credentials to be a major threat in the 1 1/16-mile race.

But what about recency? Mick Ruis Sr., who owns the filly under his Ruis Racing LLC banner, is quick to concede that he might be at a disadvantage. Union Strike would have taken the next logical step toward the Breeders’ Cup by racing in the Oct. 1 Chandelier at Santa Anita, but a sore shin kept her out of the race.

“I wish we could’ve had the one more prep,” said Ruis. “But the timing was bad. We treated the shin and eased her back into training, and now she’s doing good again. We jogged her a lot and got her back to working early this month.”

The last of five October works for Union Strike came Saturday at Santa Anita, where she went five furlongs in 1:00.40. She is trained by Craig Dollase, who remains the youngest trainer ever to win a Breeders’ Cup race, having won the 1998 Sprint with Reraise at age 27. He took over for Ruis’s daughter Shelbe, who trained Union Strike for the filly’s two starts, a runner-up finish in a maiden race and the Del Mar Debutante triumph.

Ruis is reluctant to discuss how replacing his daughter with another trainer has affected their relationship. Ruis and his wife, Wendy, have seven children in their melded family, with Shelbe, 25, being the fourth-oldest.

“Yes, she is mad at me,” he said. “But I love her. Of course I do.”