08/03/2012 3:12PM

Woodbine: Dixie Strike, Irish Mission pick up rivalry in Breeders'

Michael Burns
Dixie Strike, winner of Fort Erie's Prince of Wales, will be rematched with fellow filly Irish Mission in the Breeders', third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – The brilliant fillies Dixie Strike and Irish Mission will renew their rivalry Sunday in the 121st running of the $500,000 Breeders’ Stakes, the final leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. The 12-furlong event, which drew 14 Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, encompasses exactly one lap around the sprawling Woodbine turf course.

Irish Mission left a flat Dixie Strike back in fifth when she captured the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks June 3. Three weeks later, they both rallied wide against the grain of a speed bias in the $1 million Queen’s Plate, with Irish Mission finishing a commendable second, beaten 1 1/4 lengths by Strait of Dover.

Dixie Strike came five wide from far back to finish third in the 10-furlong Plate. She turned the tables on Irish Mission in taking the second Triple Crown race, the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes on the dirt at Fort Erie. Strait of Dover bypassed the Wales and will also miss the Breeders’ because of an injury.

Trainer Mark Casse said he and owner John Oxley chose the Breeders’ for Dixie Strike instead of the Grade 1 Alabama at Saratoga, where she spent some time recently before shipping back here.

“We had a long talk about the pros and cons,” Casse said. “We thought we’d be fourth or fifth choice in the Alabama. We think that, possibly, we could be the favorite in the Breeders’. She loves the dirt, but there’s only one Breeders’. There’s going to be lots of opportunities for her to run on the dirt. The other thing is Saratoga is a very tough track, and I would have to train her extra hard to have her ready for the Alabama.”

Casse said he believes Dixie Strike possesses sufficient stamina for the task at hand, and is ready to put forth another peak performance.

“I don’t think the distance matters with her,” Casse said. “She just sits back and doesn’t go until you ask her to go. She’s actually handled all the racing very well.”

Dixie Strike has raced twice on turf, winning the Florida Oaks at Tampa and finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride at Gulfstream.

Irish Mission threw craps as the favorite in the 1 3/16-mile Wales, winding up sixth in her first start on dirt.

“Obviously, she didn’t seem to handle the dirt very well,” said trainer Mark Frostad. “She trains well on it, but that didn’t translate into a racing performance. There’s really no reason for her to be a dirt horse. Her whole family is turf.”

Irish Mission, a daughter of Wonder Where Stakes winner Misty Mission, graduated over the Keeneland grass in April after running twice at Gulfstream.

“She’s been through a [long] campaign,” said Frostad. “The two fillies ran in all the [Triple Crown] races, plus the Oaks. It’s a pretty grueling campaign for them. But she’s training well. She looks well, and seems to be happy.”

Aldous Snow, trained by Malcolm Pierce for Sam-Son Farm, is closely related to Grade 2 stakes winner Strut the Stage and turf champion Chief Bearhart, who won the Breeders’.

Aldous Snow bypassed the Plate in favor of a 1 1/16-mile turf allowance on the same card, in which he trounced a field of older runners, which included 2010 Breeders’ winner Miami Deco.

“We thought that he probably wasn’t good enough on Poly to compete in the Plate,” Pierce said. “As it turns out, it was a good move, because he won [the allowance], and I don’t think he would have won the Plate. He beat a decent group of horses, and he’s had six weeks from there to this race. The timing is right and the surface is right. Maybe he’s not as good as the fillies, but he’s a fresh horse, which is always nice to have.”

Pierce is optimistic that Aldous Snow will stay the longer distance.

“He should be able to get it,” said Pierce. “He’s a horse you can place anywhere in the race. If they’re crawling up front, he can be close, and if they’re going fast, he’ll be farther back.”

Secondary contenders include Ultimate Destiny, Wilcox, and Seen It All Before.

Ultimate Destiny is experimenting on the grass off a second in the Wales. He was previously a wide fifth in the Plate.

Wilcox got drilled in the Plate after winning his maiden on the grass. He was recently second to Miami Deco in an 11-furlong allowance.

Seen It All Before dusted Ontario-sired allowance opposition when he tried the turf for the first time following a layoff June 29.

Four horses were supplemented for $12,500 apiece: Colleen’s Sailor, Sammy Maudlin, Street Fight, and Lateegra.