Friday, August 03, 2012
Dixie poised to ‘Strike’ in Breeders’
TORONTO, August 2 - Filly Dixie Strike, winner of the Prince of Wales, has been listed the 5-2 favourite for Sunday's $500,000 Breeders' Stakes, third jewel in Canada's Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, at Woodbine.
The 122nd running of the Breeders', for Canadian-bred three-year-olds, over one and one-half miles on the E.P. Taylor Turf Course, will go postward at 5:12 pm ET, with The Score providing nationwide television coverage in a special one-hour presentation from 4:30 - 5:30 pm ET.
While the heroine of the Prince of Wales, second gem of the three-race series, will be competing, Queen's Plate winner Strait of Dover will not, having suffered a season-ending leg injury last week readying for the race.
Sam-Son Farm's Aldous Snow (Post Position 4, jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva, trainer Malcolm Pierce), a fresh face on the Triple Crown scene with two turf wins, is the 4-1 second choice, while another filly, Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser winner and Queen's Plate runner-up, Robert Evans' Irish Mission (PP 3, Alex Solis, Mark Frostad), is the 6-1 third choice.
John C. Oxley's Dixie Strike (PP 8), a winner on dirt, turf and 'Poly', will look to pad her impressive profile when making her third career turf start.
The Dixie Union-Noble Strike bay, bred in Ontario at Arosa Farms, won a pair of 'Poly' races at Woodbine as a juvenile including the $150,000 Ontario Lassie Stakes which she romped by 5 1/2 lengths.
In her first start as a three-year-old, Dixie Strike, a half-sister to 2011 Queen's Plate champion Inglorious, showed a tremendous turf foot by taking the Florida Oaks, at Tampa Bay Downs.
In March, Dixie Strike was named the Queen's Plate Winterbook favourite on the back of those efforts.
Following off-the-board finishes in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride at Gulfstream and Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland, Dixie Strike returned to winning form with a 3 3/4-length in the Grade 3 Selene Stakes, at Woodbine.
Following a fifth-place effort in the Woodbine Oaks, she rebounded with a rousing last-to-third run in the $1-million Plate.
In her last outing, Dixie Strike proved her Plate effort was no fluke, drawing clear at the wire by a length to win Prince of Wales Stakes at Fort Erie.
Casse was so impressed with her first dirt attempt, which earned a career high Beyer Speed Figure of 91 that he sent the filly to Saratoga to train for the Grade 1, $600,000 Alabama Stakes, to be held on August 18.
However, when news broke that Plate champion Strait of Dover would miss the Breeders', Casse reconsidered.
"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 and it looked like the best she could possibly be in the Alabama is fourth choice. Running her in the Breeders', she very well could be the favourite. Mr. Oxley and I talked about it and we just thought that it made more sense to run her in the Breeders'."
Casse believes that racing over turf will be a little bit easier on the filly who has already made a field-best 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."
Casse is hopeful she'll relax for rider Patrick Husbands in Sunday's 1 1/2-mile test.
"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."
Should the filly once again reward Casse's faith in her ability, Dixie Strike, who already boasts career earnings in excess of $900,000, will join the millionaire ranks.
Others of note in the field are the second and third-place finishers from the Prince of Wales, Ultimate Destiny (8-1 in the morning line, PP 7, Steven Bahen, Mike Keogh), owned by Brenda Selwyn-Waxman and Terra Di Sienna Stable's Colleen's Sailor (12-1, PP 13, Gerry Olguin, Roger Attfield), respectively.
"(Ultimate Destiny) is good. He came out of the Prince of Wales well," Keogh said. "Each race he's getting better."
Sammy Maudlin (8-1, PP 11, Jesse Campbell, Catherine Day Phillips), for Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry, is another newcomer to the Triple Crown who will get some respect for his fine turf form.
"He's put on more and more muscle and he's continued to develop nicely," Day Phillips said.
Melnyk Racing Stables Inc.'s Wilcox (PP 10, Justin Stein, Josie Carroll), 11th in the Plate, is next in the morning-line rankings at 12-1, with a pair noted at 15-1, Quaesitor (PP 5, Emma-Jayne Wilson, Ian Howard), fourth in the Prince of Wales, and Seen It All Before (PP2, Luis Contreras, Ashlee Brnjas), a well-regarded turf winner.
Lateegra, at 20-1 in the morning line, (PP 14, Slade Callaghan, Mike Doyle) ran second in the Wonder Where Stakes, third jewel in Canada's Triple Tiara series, for fillies last Sunday.
To round out the field, four horses are 30-1 outsiders. Two time winner, Peyton (PP 9, Todd Kabel, Mike Doyle) was 13th in the Plate while Dragon Tail (PP 1, Richard Dos Ramos, Roger Attfield), Street Fight (PP 9, Jermaine Bridgmohan, Mike Keogh) and Big Kick (PP 12, Kieren Fallon, Jose Corrales) are maidens.
Fresh Triple Crown faces are dangerous in the Breeders' Stakes. Three of the last four winners did not participate in the Queen's Plate or Prince of Wales. Pierce reasons why when he discusses Aldous Snow. "We always knew his best surface would be the grass, so that's why the decision was made not to go to the Queen's Plate. These days, he has a ton of confidence."
It will be the ninth straight year Canada will not have a Triple Crown champion. Wando was the last to turn the trick in 2003.
Since the inception of the Triple Crown in 1959, favourites have taken 25 of 53 Breeders'. The shortest-priced winner was Peteski ($2.20) in 1993 while Miami Deco ($132.10) is the longest-priced winner in 2010.
The largest margin of victory since 1959 was by Ben Fab, a 14-length winner in 1980, while five editions have been won by a nose, the last by Pender Harbour in 2011.
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