03/26/2009 11:00PM

Justwhistledixie aces Bonnie Miss test

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Justwhistledixie answered the distance question and cleared the final hurdle en route to Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Oaks on May 1 with a 1 3/4-length victory over Casanova Move in Friday's Grade 2, $200,000 Bonnie Miss at Gulfstream Park.

Justwhistledixie, the surprising 5-2 favorite in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, benefitted from a perfectly judged ride by jockey Julien Leparoux in the 1 1/8-mile Bonnie Miss. Leparoux replaced Justwhistledixie's regular rider, Alan Garcia, who is in Dubai.

As expected, Gatorette set the pace, but she was rank. Leparoux was content to settle Justwhistledixie a half-dozen lengths off the early leader down the backstretch while also keeping her out in the better going well off the inside rail.

Casanova Move was the first to overtake Gatorette leaving the final turn, but her lead was short lived as Justwhistledixie quickly wrested command while continuing wide into the stretch. Justwhistledixie tried to lug in briefly while holding a short advantage nearing the eighth pole before gradually edging clear to the wire.

Hopeful Image raced wide and passed tired rivals to finish third, 10 1/2 lengths behind Casanova Move. Gatorette, an easy winner of her two previous starts, stopped badly after relinquishing the lead and finished fifth in a field of six 3-year-old fillies.

Justwhistledixie, a daughter of Dixie Union, is owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, Lakland Farm, and Dee Hubbard. She completed the distance in 1:49.25 and paid $3.20.

"I thought she'd be a little closer, but they set a pretty good pace so I was glad she was where she was," said Neal McLaughlin, brother of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who was also in Dubai for the World Cup. "We never had any concern about the added distance. The longer the better for her, as she's proven over and over again."

McLaughlin said Justwhistledixie would leave for Kentucky on Monday.