07/04/2013 11:19AM

Woodbine: Dixie Strike tries to fire fresh in Sweet Briar Too

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Tom Keyser
Dixie Strike, one of the leading 3-year-old fillies in Canada last season, launches her 2013 campaign in the Sweet Briar Too.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario –Trainer Mark Casse had several high-profile nominees for Saturday’s $125,000 Sweet Briar Too Stakes at Woodbine, and opted to run Dixie Strike in the seven-furlong sprint for fillies and mares.

Dixie Strike is returning from an eight-month vacation, and Casse has a respectable 15 percent strike rate with six-month-plus layoff horses since the beginning of 2012.

Dixie Strike was one of the leading 3-year-old fillies in Canada last year, during which she took the $500,000 Princes of Wales Stakes on dirt at Fort Erie, after finishing third in the Queen’s Plate. She also captured the Florida Oaks on grass at Tampa Bay.

After wintering in Ocala, Fla., Dixie Strike shipped to Churchill, and Casse said he thought about running her at Arlington, but ultimately decided to send her back here.

“Dixie Strike is doing very good,” Casse said. “She did a lot of training in Ocala. She really looks good. Seven-eighths may be a little short for her, but it’s a place to get started.”

Heavenly Pride merits consideration off a runner-up placing to the favored Casse runner Delightful Mary in the Grade 3 Hendrie Stakes.

Heavenly Pride was a profitable $40,000 claim in May 2012 by Tucci Stable and trainer Sid Attard. She subsequently won two optional claimers, and then went to sidelines for eight months after a narrow loss Sept. 22.

“We took a chip out of her ankle, and she came around really good,” Attard said.

Heavenly Pride was 15-1 when she came off the bench June 1 in the 6 1/2-furlong Hendrie, in which she took the lead in midstretch before finishing a length back. Attard said she has continued to impress him in the mornings.

“She worked really good the other day, five-eighths in a minute and change,” Attard said. “There’s no other spot, so we’re going to give her another shot.”

Acting Naughty won her first stakes coming wide from off a hot pace in the Grade 3 Whimsical Stakes on June 1. Nearly five weeks later in the Hendrie, she was a belated fifth after breaking in the air and giving the field about a 10-length head start.

Bear’s Gem had her five-race win streak snapped on June 15, when she came up empty while experimenting on the grass in the Zadracarta Stakes. Four of her five scores came in Ontario-sired company, most notably the Ballade Stakes.

Yellow Boat overcame a troubled trip to land a first-level allowance over seven furlongs in her second race back from an extended layoff June 1. She looks to be an up-and-comer, with a chance to pull an upset.

Nikkis Smartypants won a slow six-furlong optional claimer in her season opener June 15.