So when the horse returned Saturday to make his debut as a 6-year-old in the Grade 2, $200,000 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico, it was understandable that horseplayers dismissed him at 14-1. Those who took notice of his back class were soon rewarded, as Strike a Deal, ridden by Ramon Dominguez for trainer Alan Goldberg, led throughout the 1 1/8-mile turf race to cross the million-dollar threshold with a three-quarter-length score over late-running Just as Well.
"He was certainly ready to run today," said Dominguez. "Alan Goldberg did a great job with him. I saw fit to make the lead, and my horse was eager to do it."
Strike a Deal, a son of Smart Strike owned by Richard Santulli, returned $30.20 after finishing in 1:47.81 over a firm course.
Nicanor, the 4-year-old full brother to 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, gave closest chase to Strike a Deal down the stretch the first time and around to the quarter pole. As Nicanor tired, Rahystrada and Forgotten Dynasty made bids, but neither they nor Just as Well could seriously threaten the winner.
Rahystrada finished third, a half-length behind Just as Well, with Forgotten Dynasty another length back in fourth in a field of 12 older horses.
Among a number of notable efforts earlier in his career, Strike a Deal won the Laurel Futurity at 2, was second by a nose in the $1 million Virginia Derby at 3, and was second in the Grade 1 United Nations at 4. In all, he now has 5 wins and 7 seconds from 20 starts. He earned $120,000 Saturday, lifting his bankroll to $1,052,341.