Sunday’s $500,000 Woodbine Oaks drew a field of nine Canadian-bred three-year-old fillies, prompting many to wonder if the race sponsor was now Bud Light as opposed to Budweiser. In any event, there’s nothing light about the top contender for the 1 1/8-mile feature, John Oxley’s Dixie Strike, who will be looking to show that she’s even more of a powerhouse than her Oaks and Plate-winning half-sister Inglorious.
It wouldn’t be a surprise. Dixie Strike has already provided glimpses of the wow factor.
Look back at her first stakes score, the 1 1/16-mile Ontario Lassie Stakes. She closed from her position in the middle of a 12-horse field to defeat her nearest pursuer by 5 ½ lengths. Her final five-sixteenths of a mile in a strong :29 4/5 over the Polytrack.
Sent to Florida for the Winter, she wowed them again at Tampa Bay Downs in the Florida Oaks at 1 1/16-miles on the turf. Racing in sixth early behind fractions of :50 3/5 and 1:15-flat, it appeared as though she would have trouble hitting the board. Under Jose Lezcano, she closed like a freight train in the stretch to win the race by a nose.
In this event, her five-sixteenths come-home time was an unbelievable :27 2/5. On paper it looks like a short-margin victory in a listed event, but when you look at the circumstances, it was an exciting performance that broke all the rules.
After two off races at Gulfstream and Keeneland, perhaps due to the taxing nature of her Tampa Bay performance, Dixie Strike returned to her best form back at Woodbine in the Grade 3, 1 1/16-mile Selene Stakes, which was moved back to its rightful position on the stakes schedule, ahead of the Oaks. Dixie Strike made a brilliant second-turn move along the inside and ran down the tiring favorite, two-year-old champion Tu Endie Wei. Her connections probably couldn’t have asked for a better prep from which to springboard into the Oaks.
The daughter of Dixie Union enters the Oaks as the fastest filly in the field and the most accomplished. In the Selene, she recorded a Beyer of 89 while barely breaking a sweat. A repeat of that 1 1/16-mile performance will make her dangerous. If the Mark Casse trainee is able to move forward off the effort, she’ll be invincible against this bunch.
If there’s one chink in her armor, it’s her rallying style. She faces eight rivals that aren’t particularly interested in racing on the lead. Should a slow pace result, one of her less talented rivals could be in a glorious position to capitalize, especially if her progress is slowed by traffic problems.
But the attractive filly has already proven she can overcome a doddling pace and with nine furlongs to work with, it may take a huge effort to hold her off in the final furlong, where she had proven to be most dominant.
Do you think Dixie Strike can be beat? If so, who and how will this 4-5 shot go down?
Tomorrow's blog: a look at the one possible Oaks upsetter and the riddle that is this year's Plate Trial.