08/28/2005 11:00PM

Ward opts to try Cal-breds with R Lucky Strike

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DEL MAR, Calif. - When trainer Wesley Ward purchased the 2-year-old In Excess filly R Lucky Strike for $18,000 at a sale at Barretts in May, he phoned some longtime owners of his and put them to a test.

"I didn't tell them her breeding or how fast she had worked," Ward said Monday. "I just said, 'It's $4,500 for 25 percent. Are you in?' Each one said, 'I'm in.' "

Why the gamesmanship?

"I just wanted to see if they trusted me. Blind trust," Ward said, laughing.

The trust has paid off for Mitch Dutko, Nelson Leung, and Ray Sainz. R Lucky Strike rolled to an impressive three-length victory in her debut on July 24, earning $30,600, and will go for a bigger payday on Wednesday when she competes in the $100,000 Generous Portion Stakes for California-bred 2-year-old fillies at Del Mar.

The Generous Portion, at six furlongs, drew a field of seven, and was carded as the second race on the eight-race card. R Lucky Strike drew the rail. She displayed high speed from the gate in her debut. Patrick Valenzuela has the mount, replacing Rene Douglas, who is serving a suspension.

"It's unfortunate we drew the rail, but it's fortunate we have Patrick, because he's great getting away from the gate," said Ward, who also owns a part of R Lucky Strike.

Ward said R Lucky Strike had trained so well heading into her debut that he brought his wife and three kids to the track that day.

"I thought she'd win," he said. "It was a great day."

could have then headed to the Sorrento Stakes and the Del Mar Debutante, but Ward decided to keep her with Cal-breds.

"I felt that if we could get a stakes win into her, her value would go up as a broodmare," Ward said. "I figured everybody else would chase the graded races. I didn't want to overmatch her."

R Lucky Strike's primary rival could be , who was disqualified from second and placed fifth as the 3-5 favorite in the California Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Stakes on July 22. Kalookan Lessie started from the rail that day, so a move to post 3 should be in her favor. She also is adding blinkers. A return to the form that carried her to a five-length debut win at Hollywood Park on June 22 would make her formidable.

led from start to finish to beat statebred rivals here on Aug. 6. Sierra Sweetie has finished second in both her starts, a stakes race at Solano and a maiden race at Del Mar.