02/02/2012 4:44PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Casse has big plans for Dixie Strike

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OLDSMAR, Fla. – Could the 2012 Queen’s Plate winner be running Saturday in the $150,000 Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs?

Trainer Make Casse will send out a pair of talented fillies owned by John Oxley in Dixie Strike and Northern Passion, and while the trainer thinks both individuals have bright futures, he is high enough in his praise for Dixie Strike, a half-sister to 2011 Queen’s Plate winner Inglorious, to suggest she could win Canada’s biggest 3-year-old race of the season.

Dixie Strike is 2 for 4 in her career, with all of her starts cioming over Polytrack at Woodbine last year.

“Talent-wise I think this filly really has a chance to have an exceptional career,” Casse said. “She could well be undefeated coming into this race in four starts. In her first start her jockey, Patrick Husbands, was thrown at the gate and was injured but still rode the race. She was beaten less than a length that day and they took Patrick off in an ambulance after the race so it’s obvious he probably shouldn’t have ridden her that day.

“Then she had another bad trip in the Princess Elizabeth and got beat a length again and was flying at the end. She’s a gorgeous filly, long and lanky and has looked very sharp at Palm Meadows training for her 3-year-old campaign. Being a half-sister to Inglorious, I really think if she continues to progress like she’s been doing she’s got a shot at the Queen’s Plate.”

The 1 1/16-mile Oaks will be Dixie Strike’s turf debut. Casse said running her in this race is more a case of timing than wanting to test his charge on a new surface.

“She needed to get a race under her,” he said, “and she’s handled the Poly well so there’s no reason to think she won’t handle turf.”

Northern Passion comes into Oaks with two wins from four career starts, including a victory at a mile on grass at Woodbine in the Grade 3 Natalma Stakes

“She beat Wayne Catalano’s filly Stephanie’s Kitten, who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, and Chad Brown’s horse, who won the Sweetest Chant [Dayatthespa] here at Gulfstream a couple of weeks ago, in the Natalma. She’s doing well and is ready to run.”

The Casse pair will face a graded winner in More Than Love, who won going a mile and a sixteenth on the turf in her second career start, then shipped to Hollywood Park for a game nose win as the favorite in the Grade 3 Miesque Stakes. More Than Love has been training in New York.

Two-time winner Customer Base finished 11th from an outside post in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in her only turf outing, while Spielzeit shoots for her third straight win over the Tampa turf in the Oaks.

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch