04/09/2017 8:46PM

Union Strike provides Blanc with 1,000th win in Santa Paula

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Benoit & Associates
Brice Blanc guides Union Strike to a 1 1/2-length victory in the Santa Paula.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Union Strike closed from off the pace to win her first start of 2017 in Sunday’s $79,290 Santa Paula Stakes at Santa Anita, the 1,000th career win for jockey Brice Blanc and the first stakes career win for trainer Mick Ruis.

Union Strike ($20.20) closed from fifth in a field of seven to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Selcourt, the 6-5 favorite who disputed the pace to the final furlong. Auntjenn, a 27-1 outsider, finished third.

Union Strike ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.92.

Blanc, 44, won the 999th race of his career on March 31 and was anxious to reach the four-figure milestone.

“I tried not to think about it, but it’s hard and it’s always in the back of your mind,” he said. “When you are or one or two away, and it’s not coming, it can be frustrating.”

Blanc, who was born and raised in southwest France, has been a fixture in Southern California since his first career win in February 1995.

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Selcourt, a maiden race winner in February in her only previous start, dueled with Chalon through early fractions of 21.85 seconds for an opening quarter-mile and 44.65 for a half-mile. Selcourt led by a half-length with a furlong to go, but could not hold off Union Strike.

Life’s Blessings finished fourth, followed by Mistressofthenight, Chalon, and Charlatana. Chalon is the only filly to beat the three-time stakes winner Unique Bella, considered the nation’s leading 3-year-old filly. Chalon and Unique Bella were first and second in a maiden race here last June, the first start for both. Chalon had her second start in the Santa Paula.

Union Strike races for Ruis and his wife, Wendy, who were stakes winners as owners last year. Union Strike won the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante Stakes last September, when trained by their daughter, Shelbe.

In October, Shelbe and Mick Ruis severed their working relationship with Craig Dollase taking over training the stable. Union Strike finished sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last November and fifth in the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos last December before being turned out for recurring sore shins, Mick Ruis said.

“We gave her plenty of time to let her shins heal,” Mick Ruis said. “We know we have a nice 3-year-old filly.”

Mick Ruis, 57, regained his trainer’s license earlier this year. Union Strike was his second winner from 16 starters at the meeting. Ruis trained in the 2000s and has invested heavily in racing in the last year after selling a portion of his privately held scaffolding company.

Ruis said he will consider the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico on May 19 for Union Strike. By Union Rags, Union Strike has won 2 of 5 starts and earned $265,760.