Canadian filly Dixie Strike was so impressive in winning the Prince of Wales Stakes on dirt last month that trainer Mark Casse sent her to Saratoga Race Course to run in the Alabama Stakes (gr. I). Those plans changed when Queen's Plate winner Strait of Dover was withdrawn from consideration for the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes on home soil.
Instead, John Oxley's daughter of Dixie Union is the 5-2 morning line favorite for the third jewel in Canada's Triple Crown series, to be contested on the turf at Woodbine Aug. 5.
"A big part of it was Strait of Dover," admitted Casse. "He's by English Channel and he would have been tough to beat. We brought her over to run her in the Alabama (Aug. 18) and it looked like the best she could possibly be in the Alabama is fourth choice. Running her in the Breeders' Stakes, she very well could be the favorite. Mr. Oxley and I talked about it and we just thought that it made more sense to run her in the Breeders' Stakes."
Fourteen are set to pack the gate in the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Stakes for Canadian-foaled 3-year-olds, which is set to go as the ninth race on the Aug. 5 card with a 5:12 p.m. EDT probable post.
Casse believes that racing over turf will be a little bit easier on Dixie Strike, who has already made a field-leading seven starts in 2012.
"The difficulty with running at Saratoga is it's a very deep and tiring racetrack where I'm going to have to train her much harder," explained Casse. "Going into the Breeders' she doesn't have to do a whole lot. She can run on the turf and turf isn't going to be as difficult. Our thoughts are that down the road she'll have other opportunities to run on the dirt."
Dixie Strike won the Florida Oaks on turf at Tampa Bay Downs in February and was placed third in the Herecomesthebride Stakes on grass at Gulfstream Park March 11. The bay filly disappointed earlier this year when fifth as the odds-on choice in the Woodbine Oaks - Presented by Budweiser. But she recovered with a third-place effort in the Queen's Plate June 24. The she came from well back to tally by one length in the 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales at Fort Erie July 15, her first start on dirt.
Casse is hopeful she'll relax for rider Patrick Husbands in Sunday's test, which will be the longest of Dixie Strike's career.
"I think she's probably, right now, at the top of her game," said Casse. "The key to her is that Patrick will be able to get her to shut off and gallop along, whatever he wants her to do, and when he needs her to run he can ask her to run and that's what helps for a mile and a half. She has shown the ability to do that and I think the mile and a half shouldn't be a problem for her."
Dixie Strike will break from post 8 with a five-pound weight allowance against males.
Sam-Son Farm's Aldous Snow, a fresh face on the Triple Crown scene with two turf wins for trainer Malcolm Pierce, is the 4-1 second choice. Another filly, Woodbine Oaks winner and Queen's Plate runner-up Irish Mission, owned by Robert S. Evans and conditioned by Mark Frostad, is the 6-1 third choice.
Others of note in the field are the second and third-place finishers from the Prince of Wales: Ultimate Destiny (8-1), owned by Brenda Selwyn-Waxman and trained by Mike Keogh, and Terra Di Sienna Stable's Colleen's Sailor (12-1) for Roger Attfield.
Sammy Maudlin (8-1), trained by Catherine Day Phillips for Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry, is another newcomer to the Triple Crown that will get some respect for his fine turf form.
Strait of Dover sustained a season-ending leg injury preparing for the Breeders' Stakes and is expected to miss the remainder of the year.
$500,000 Breeders' Stakes (Race 9, 5:12 p.m.), 3YOs Foaled in Canada, 1 1/2 Miles (Turf)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Dragon Tail (ON), R A Dos Ramos, 126, R L Attfield, 30/1
2. Seen It All Before (ON), L Contreras, 126, A Brnjas, 15/1
3. Irish Mission (ON), A O Solis, 121, M R Frostad, 6/1
4. Aldous Snow (ON), E R Da Silva, 126, M Pierce, 4/1
5. Quaesitor (ON), E Wilson, 126, I Howard, 15/1
6. Street Fight (ON), J V Bridgmohan, 126, M Keogh, 30/1
7. Ultimate Destiny (ON), S R Bahen, 126, M Keogh, 8/1
8. Dixie Strike (ON), P Husbands, 121, M E Casse, 5/2
9. Peyton (ON), T Kabel, 126, M J Doyle, 30/1
10. Wilcox (ON), J Stein, 126, J Carroll, 12/1
11. Sammy Maudlin (ON), J M Campbell, 126, C Day Phillips, 8/1
12. Big Kick (ON), K Fallon, 126, J Corrales, 30/1
13. Colleen's Sailor (ON), G Olguin, 126, R L Attfield, 12/1
14. Lateegra (ON), S Callaghan, 121, M J Doyle, 20/1
Blinkers On: Quaesitor; Blinkers Off: Colleen's Sailor