Dixie Moon, sent off as the second choice at 3-1, held off the late surge of odds-on favourite Wonder Gadot to prevail by a head in Saturday’s $500,000 Woodbine Oaks Presented By Budweiser at Woodbine Racetrack.
Trained by Catherine Day Phillips and ridden by Eurico Rosa da Silva, Dixie Moon had pressed the pace of Fairy Hill while in the clear from the outset of the 1 1/8 mile showpiece for Canadian-bred three-year-old fillies.
“My plan was trying to relax her as much as I could and she was running very, very relaxed,” said jockey Eurico Rosa da Silva.
“I had a great trip, I was sitting in a great position and the pace was not that fast. I pushed her a little bit early because I know she was going to have a good finish.”
“She had a nice, clean trip and she just gave it her all,” said Day Phillips. “Her biggest strength is in her heart. She’s just a lovely filly.”
Fairy Hill led by a length through a quarter in :25.16 and a half in :50.27. Dixie Moon, just off the leader’s flank, had moved to within a half-length as the three-quarters went by in 1:14.07 and assumed command in early stretch.
Wonder Gadot, by contrast, was squeezed back shortly after the start and forced to drop back to last place in the field of five.
Launching a three-wide move down the backstretch, Wonder Gadot had Dixie Moon in her sights turning for home and had drawn within a half-length as the mile went by in 1:38 but was just unable to overtake the winner.
“She was real bad with the pony so I had to walk her warming up,” said jockey Patrick Husbands. She broke flat-footed, and walked out of the gate, so we had to try to get back within striking distance. But she ran a good race.”
Da Silva acknowledged that he expected a stern challenge from the favourite.
“In my mind, I knew that filly was going to come,” said Da Silva. “And Patrick was smart, he was watching me and she came and both horses ran a fabulous race.”
Hot Cash, a maiden who was making her local bow for Stronach Stables and trainer Jimmy Jerkens, finished a non-threatening third, 7 1/4 lengths behind the winner.
Fairy Hill weakened to finish fourth another length back and Queen’s Fate brought up the rear in the compact field of five.
The final time of the Woodbine Oaks was 1:50.38. The Plate Trial, for Canadian-bred three-year-olds, was clocked in 1:50.40 two races earlier.
All starters carried 121 pounds, which would be the assigned impost for representatives of the fair sex in the Queen’s Plate.
The Woodbine Oaks has been a key prep for the Queen’s Plate in recent years with Holy Helena (2017), Lexie Lou (2014), Inglorious (2011) and Dancethruthedawn (2001) completing the Woodbine Oaks—Queen’s Plate double in this century.
Day Phillips, however, was non-committal in the immediate aftermath of Dixie Moon’s victory.
Dixie Moon, a homebred who races for Sean and Dorothy Fitzhenry, was the second Woodbine Oaks winner for Day Phillips and Da Silva, who upset the 2016 renewal with Neshama.
The Curlin filly was winning her third stakes race after defeating Canadian-bred males in last year’s Cup and Saucer at 1 1/16 miles and fellow Ontario-bred fillies in the 1 1/16 mile Ontario Lassie. She was coming into the Woodbine Oaks off a solid second-place finish in the Grade 3 Selene here at 1 1/16 miles.
The winner returned $8.60 and $2.10 with the 4-3 exactor over Wonder Gadot ($2.10) coming back at $11.90. The $1 trifecta with No. 5 Hot Cash returned $11.50 and the $1 superfecta with Fairy Hill (1) was worth $17.05.