The filly Dixie Strike, closing from well out on the track, edged past Colleen's Sailor just past the furlong pole to capture the US$493,153 Prince of Wales Stakes July 15 in what could be the race's final renewal at Fort Erie (VIDEO).
Ridden by Patrick Husbands, Dixie Strike was pushed out through the lane as Colleen's Sailor drifted out under Corey Nakatani. Dixie Strike was tougher, however, and drew clear in deep stretch to win by one length over Ultimate Destiny. Colleen's Sailor settled for third in the field of nine 3-year-olds. Dixie Strike, racing on dirt for the first time, was timed in 1:57.54 for the 1 3/16-mile distance on a fast track.
Dixie Strike is a half sister to 2011 Queen's Plate winner, the filly Inglorious. Third in this year's Queen's Plate, Dixie Strike was sent off as the 5-2 second choice in the Prince of Wales, the second jewel in Canada's Triple Crown. Another filly, Queen's Plate runner-up Irish Mission was the 8-5 pick this time, but did not take to the dirt and finished sixth. The two fillies enjoyed a five-pound weight allowance and carried 121 apiece.
Mark Casse trains the winning daughter of Dixie Union for owner John Oxley. It was the second win in the Fort Erie classic for Casse, who previously won in 2009 with Gallant, and the first win for her owner. Husbands previously won the race in 2003 with Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando.
Fort Erie, the 115-year-old Ontario track, has hosted the Prince of Wales since 1929 but is slated for closure Dec. 31 after losing its slot machine program.
This year's Queen's Plate winner Strait of Dover, like Inglorious last year, opted to skip the Prince of Wales and short circuit a Triple Crown run this year. The third and final race of the classic series for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds is the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes at 1 1/2 miles on turf Aug. 5 at Woodbine.
Dixie Strike won for the third time in seven starts this year, taking the Florida Oaks on turf at Tampa Bay Downs to begin the year Feb. 4. She also won the Selene Stakes (Can-III) at Woodbine May 13 but disappointed in her next start, a fifth-place finish in the Woodbine Oaks.
Casse said the Selene effort, which produced a win by 3 3/4 lengths, may have taken more out of Dixie Strike than he realized. In retrospect, he said he wished he had not run her in the Oaks.
"I saw her really improve from the Oaks to the Plate, and I saw a huge improvement from the Plate to this race," Casse said. "I felt really confident."
He said he chose not to breeze her over the dirt prior to the Prince of Wales because he had already seen she could handle dirt while she trained in Florida this winter.
"She was a happy horse and I wanted to keep her a happy horse," Casse said.
Bred by Arosa Farms, Dixie Strike was purchased by Oxley for $43,456 out of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society September Canadian-bred yearling sale in Ontario. She is out of the stakes-winning Smart Strike mare Noble Strike.
Dixie Strike raced at the rear of the pack for more than a half-mile before progressing into fifth on the backstretch. Menlo Castle, a 31-1 outsider, led the first six furlongs over third choice Colleen's Sailor while posting even fractions of :23.44, :46.82, and 1:11.66.
Colleen's Sailor took the lead on the far turn as Dixie Strike made a mild gain, and held a narrow margin over the stalking Ultimate Destiny, ridden by Steve Bahen, in upper stretch. But Dixie Strike, on the extreme outside for Husbands, closed with resilience, overcoming the drifting Colleen's Sailor and holding the steadily closing Ultimate Destiny safe in the final strides.
Ultimate Destiny, the fifth-place finisher in the Queen's Plate, took second by a half-length over Colleen's Sailor. Quaesitor was 2 1/2 lengths farther back in fourth, followed by Dead On, Irish Mission, Menlo Castle, Run in Aruba, and Classic Bryce.
Dixie Strike paid $7.90, $4.20, and $2.70 and keyed an $84.50 exacta. Ultimate Destiny returned $11 and $5.90. Colleen's Sailor paid $3.50.
Improving her career record to 5-2-2 in 11 races, Dixie Strike has now banked $891,051. The Prince of Wales victory was worth $295,890.