02/04/2012 3:51PM

Tampa Bay Downs: Dixie Strike takes Florida Oaks by a nose

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OLDSMAR, Fla. - John Oxley's Dixie Strike closed stoutly while four wide to get up in the final stride and win her 3-year-old debut in Saturday’s $150,000 Florida Oaks at Tampa Bay Downs.

Dixie Strike, part of a favored Oxley-owned entry with Northern Passion, was content to sit off the dawdling pace set by More Than Love that included a half-mile of 50.79 seconds and six furlongs in 1:15.06.

Through the second Dixie Strike, who trainer Mark Casse has indicated may be pointed for the Queen's Plate, ralllied four wide and set sail at the leader. But More Than Love had something left and moved into the final furlong with a daylight lead. Dixie Strike steadily gained ground from the outside with every stride while Regalo Mia was gaining to the inside and entrymate Northern Passion was closing from the far outside.

Dixie Strike responded to the urging of Jose Lezcano and collared More Than Love in the final stride for a nose decision, with Regalo Mia another neck back in third and Northern Passion another half-length back in fourth. A claim of foul by the owner of Regalo Mia against the winner for interference in the stretch was disallowed.

“I was a little concerned early," Casse said. "I kept saying to Mr. Oxley down the backside 'They’re running too slow, they’re running too slow.’

"I think for her to finish the way she did and win just shows how good she truly is. I know what she was thinking – I like to win. And she’s a winner. I think Dixie Strike could be a Kentucky Oaks filly. We’re going to have to map out a plan to get there."

Time for the mile and a sixteenth over a firm turf course was 1:43.30. Dixie Strike returned $3.60.

The win was the third from five career starts for Dixie Strike and the $60,000 winner's share of the Oaks raised her career earnings to $278,064.