The 2003 meet at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas is set to kick off Friday, one week later than originally scheduled. Oaklawn's opening weekend was cancelled due to frozen track conditions.
Highlighting the opener is the $50,000 Dixie Belle Stakes. When entries were drawn Wednesday for the Dixie Belle, the names of the original eight -- including the Cole Norman entry of Beautiful Spy and Explosive Beauty -- were re-entered, as were those of Wildcat Annie, Miss Kitty Slew and Satin Storm, making this -- barring scratches -- the largest Dixie Belle field since 1996.
Heading the Dixie Belle is Jodys Deelite, who will be ridden by Shane Sellers for trainer Dallas Stewart. A $65,000 daughter of Afternoon Deelites bred by former Kentucky Gov. Brereton C. Jones, and owned by Mike Rutherford, Jodys Deelite comes into the Dixie Belle, a six-furlong dash for 3-year-old fillies, with a mere 1-2-1 record from six starts. But she was stakes-placed last year in the Ellis Park Debutante, the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies at Turfway Park, and the Eliza on Breeders' Cup Eve at Arlington Park.
The main threats to Jody's Deelite look to be Explosive Beauty, fresh from a closing third to the unbeaten Perfect Wave (also trained by Stewart) in a Fair Grounds allowance, and Hannah's Royalrock, a two-time stakes-winner at 2 from trainer Steve Asmussen, who won the 2000 Dixie Belle with Secret Sip. Jamie Theriot and Glen Murphy are the respective riders.
Bob Holthus, the nine-time champion Oaklawn trainer who won the Dixie Belle in the '90s with Mama's Pro and The Happy Hopper, will try for a hat trick with Semifinal, who steps up into stakes company after winning three of four starts in against softer last year, The $75,000 daughter of Gold Case blew out for the Dixie Belle on Tuesday with three-quarters in :37 2/5 over a
fast but deep strip. Beautiful Spy went the same distance in :38 4/5, while other Dixie Belle entrants Paige Moro went three-eighths in a quick :35 3/5, and Mekko Hokte drilled a half-mile in :49 4/5.