Trainer Mark Casse is holding a hot hand for Sunday’s $500,000 Woodbine Oaks, presented by Budweiser.
Already a two-time winner of Canada’s most important race for Canadian-bred three-year-old fillies, Casse will saddle two hopefuls for owner John Oxley, likely favourite Dixie Strike and Northern Passion, and one for Eugene Melnyk, the promising Black Bird Rock.
To be ridden by Patrick Husbands, Dixie Strike enters the Oaks off an ultra impressive three and three-quarter length victory over heavily-favoured Tu Endie Wei in the mile and one-sixteenth Selene Stakes, May 13, fashioning an explosive stretch charge on the rail.
She’d been competing south of the border in her three previous outings this year, winning the turf Florida Oaks in February at Tampa Bay Downs, but most recently finishing fifth in the Ashland Stakes at Keeneland on April 7.
“Looking at the (Selene), there wasn’t a lot of speed,” recalled Casse. “Patrick and I talked about it and decided we were going to lay close (to the pace). Patrick said, when he came away from there (the gate), she just didn’t want to run. So he let her settle back. When he pulled the trigger, she fired.
“I think he gunned her and she went quicker than he thought she would. I don’t think you can ever expect that kind of effort. You can only hope for it. But she had trained well. If you look at her Polytrack races at Woodbine, they’re very good.”
FROSTAD, EVANS LOOK TO IRISH MISSION FOR OAKS GLORY
Champion trainer Mark Frostad and owner Robert Evans’ Woodbine Oaks mission is to take the $500,000 event with Irish Mission, a filly who heads into the 1 1/8-mile race in winning form.
With a trio of Oaks crowns (Catch The Ring in 2000, Dancethruthedawn in 2001 and Eye of the Sphynx in 2004) to his name, Frostad, who was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame last year, is hoping Irish Mission, a daughter of Giant’s Causeway, can maintain her momentum.
While he hasn’t won the Oaks, Evans has had his fair share of success at the Toronto oval, more specifically, with Akronism and Marsh Side, the latter taking three graded stakes at Woodbine, including victories in the 2008 Canadian International and 2009 Northern Dancer Stakes, both Grade 1 events.
So, it could very well be ‘Mission’ possible for the filly who just broke her maiden on the Keeneland turf, a 1 3/16-mile race over ‘firm’ going on April 26.
“Her last two races have been really nice efforts,” offered Frostad, of the pair of grass races, a second-place finish at Gulfstream on March 29 and the impressive victory in Kentucky. “She’s started to figure everything out which you can see in her last two races. We always thought we had a good filly and she’s really showing it now.”
Jockey Alex Solis gets the call.
HEIL IS GUEST DRAWMASTER FOR OAKS
Canada’s Champion Freestyle Moguls skier, Jennifer Heil, is the guest drawmaster for the Woodbine Oaks draw, which takes place this Thursday, May 31, at Woodbine’s east-end trackside tent.
She will assist in determining the post positions and speak briefly of her participation in racing at the noon media conference.
WOODBINE OAKS WEBSITE
All the information and event details for Woodbine Oaks day is available at http://www.WoodbineOaks.com.