11/28/2009 12:00AM

Sara Louise rebounds on dirt

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Sara Louise, under Edgar Prado, holds off Justwhistledixie to win the Top Flight Handicap by a half-length.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Back on dirt, Sara Louise was back in form, holding off a stiff challenge from Justwhistledixie in the stretch to win Friday's by a half-length at Aqueduct.

The win enabled Sara Louise to end her 3-year-old season on a high note following a fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint three weeks ago. That race was run over Santa Anita's synthetic Pro-Ride surface. Prior to that, Sara Louise had 3 wins and 2 seconds from 6 starts on dirt, including a victory in the Grade 3 Victory Ride at Saratoga and a head loss to multiple champion Indian Blessing in the Gallant Bloom at Belmont.

"She probably loses a step on the Polytrack because we thought she'd run a little better than that,'' Godolphin assistant trainer Rick Mettee said, referring to her Breeders' Cup effort.

Breaking from post 8 under Edgar Prado, Sara Louise broke sharply and raced with the leaders through the first furlong. Prado eased her back and kept her four wide as Weathered ran an opening quarter in 23.92 seconds and a half-mile in 47.56 while being pursued by Spritely.

Sara Louise moved into third and was three wide entering the far turn. Approaching the quarter pole, she crept up outside of Weathered and Spritely while Justwhistledixie came with a four-wide sweep under Jose Lezcano. Sara Louise struck the front just outside the eighth pole then held Justwhistledixie at bay through the lane to earn the victory. It was 3 3/4 lengths back to Cuvee Uncorked in third. Porte Bonheur, who stumbled badly at the start, finished fourth.

Over a dry track that yielded slow times most of the day, Sara Louise covered the mile in 1:38.94 and returned $3.40 as the 3-5 favorite.

Meanwhile, Justwhistledixie ran a creditable race making her first start since finishing second in the Grade 1 Acorn on June 6.

"I thought she might wear her down, but the other one just kept running too,'' said Bill Mott, the trainer of Justwhistledixie. "We ran to her leaving the quarter pole and lapped up on the winner. I couldn't have any big excuse. We were obviously widest of all because we had the outside post position, but a pretty good race off the layoff against a pretty good filly.''

Sara Louise will spend the winter in Kentucky to gear up for her 4-year-old campaign. Justwhistledixie will head to south Florida for the winter and point for stakes at Gulfstream Park, where she won a pair of Grade 2 stakes in March.