CHESTER - Strike Impact is one of those veteran competitors with a lot of hard-fought efforts on his resume. And he promises to deliver another of those efforts on Tuesday in the 34th running of the $75,000 Independence Day Stakes at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort.
The 8-year-old gelding's career record includes 65 starts, 16 wins, 20 placings and purse earnings of $565,728.
"He's a hard-trying horse," said Strike Impact's trainer, Patrick J. Dupuy. "He gets beaten sometimes, but he's been in against some tough company. And he's the soundest horse I've ever trained in my life."
On Aug. 6, Strike Impact was the even-money favorite in Mountaineer's West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker's Cup, run on the West Virginia Derby undercard. He had the lead in deep stretch, but was beaten a neck by Mystic, a horse trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott.
To date, Strike Impact has never won a stakes race. Neither has Dupuy, a 54-year-old son of a trainer, and has worked with Thoroughbreds since he was a teenager. But Strike Impact has often come close in black-type events.
In addition to the Speaker's Cup, Strike Impact is stakes-placed at Dupuy's base of operations, Churchill Downs. And Strike Impact has thrice placed in stakes at Fair Grounds in Dupuy's hometown of New Orleans - including a third-place finish in the Grade 3 Colonel E.R. Bradley Handicap on Jan. 21.
The Independence Day Stakes is run at one mile on the grass, the same as the Speaker's Cup. But varying surfaces don't seem to hinder Strike Impact. He has won on fast dirt tracks; on drying-out dirt tracks; on synthetic tracks; and four times on turf courses.
Bred in Kentucky by Hermitage Farm, Strike Impact is by Smart Strike, who is an inductee to the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, and was North America's leading sire in 2007 and 2008. Strike Impact's dam, Foret Noire, won the 1999 renewal of Mountaineer's Decoration Day Handicap. That race was run at 7 furlongs on the grass.
Strike Impact was consigned to the 2005 Keeneland September Yearling auction, but was not sold. A month or so later, though, he was in the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling auction, and was sold for $15,000.
He began his racing career at Woodbine near Toronto, Canada, in the fall of 2008, and graduated from the maiden ranks a second asking. Strike Impact ran in allowance and stakes company, then went to the claiming ranks - and in a rather extraordinary skein that began at Woodbine in November, 2007, and extended to Florida's Gulfstream Park in April, 2008, he was claimed in five consecutive races by five different trainers.
In late July of 2009, at Arlington Park, Strike Impact was claimed again, this time by Dupuy.
"I took him for $25,000 from Wayne Catalano," Dupuy said. "I had seen Strike Impact win impressively in his previous start, and when I saw that he was in for only 'a quarter,' I made my move."
Dupuy spent many of his early years on the New England circuit, at tracks such as Suffolk Downs, Rockingham Park, Narragansett Park, Lincoln Downs and Green Mountain.
He now lives in Louisville, and co-owns Strike Impact's in partnership with Chester J. Miller of Simpsonville, Ky. Dupuy prefers to condition a small stable - Strike Impact is one of just two horses he has in training.
"I'd like to get up to four or maybe five horses, but no more than that," Dupuy said.
With Dupuy handling conditioning chores, Strike Impact has garnered purses of $320,325. That's more than 12 times what the gelding cost via his claiming tag nearly three years ago.
Eight horses drew into the Independence Day field, with Strike Impact receiving the number one post. No jockey was named aboard him at the time of entry.
Dupuy said that Churchill-based John McKee is a possibility; as is Francisco Torres, who currently leads the jockey standings at Arlington Park near Chicago; as are the Mountaineer-based jockeys Jason Lumpkins and Jareth Loveberry.
NOTES: The $75,000 Firecracker Stakes and the Independence Day will be the third and fourth events, respectively, on Tuesday's 10-race Mountaineer card. The Firecracker has a scheduled post of 7:50 p.m. and the Independence Day has a scheduled post of 8:15 p.m. ... Ten fillies and mares drew into the Firecracker. The group includes the four-year-old Aquapazza, who won the Opelousas Stakes at Evangeline Downs in Louisiana in her most recent start.