The $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes kicks off Oaklawn Park’s three-year-old filly series of stakes for the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on Saturday, and the six-furlong affair has attracted two swift competitors in Amy’s Challenge and Mia Mischief.
Amy’s Challenge is the heavy 3-2 favorite in the seven-horse field following a pair of stellar wins at Canterbury Park. The McLean Robertson trainee dominated her August 6 maiden debut by 16 widening lengths, earning a 97 BRIS Speed rating, then blew that number away when recording a 105 BRIS Speed figure for taking the Shakopee Juvenile Stakes.
The Artie Schiller filly beat the boys in both of her starts thus far. In her stakes bow, she was briefly headed by a rival but fought back to claim victory by three parts of a length on September 16. That was her last race, and Amy’s Challenge keeps Jareth Loveberry in the irons for the Dixie Belle.
“The only reason I ran her against males at Canterbury was I had some decent fillies, not like her, but that I thought could win,” Robertson explained, specifically mentioning another debut winner, Glamorized. “They got ready at the same time, so it made sense to run Glamorized against fillies and Amy’s Challenge against boys. I thought she could win wherever I ran her.
“There wasn’t a filly stake (at Canterbury), there was only a boy’s stake,” he continued. “Obviously, everybody wants to stay home. It made sense. With two-year-olds, I think, maybe in the summer they’re some fillies just as fast as boys, anyway.”
Mia Mischief earned a 99 BRIS Speed rating for her 3 3/4-length, wire-to-wire score last out at Churchill Downs on November 25 in an allowance/optional claimer. The Into Mischief filly finished second in her debut under the Twin Spires last fall, but romped by 16 lengths to break her maiden at Keeneland three weeks later. She returned to Churchill to fill the runner-up spot in the Spendthrift Juvenile Filly Station Stakes for trainer Steven Asmussen, and retains Ricardo Santana Jr. for this one.
Minit to Stardom doesn’t boast the same BRIS Speed numbers as the top two, but the Al Stall Jr. pupil romped in both of her starts thus far at Fair Grounds. After breaking her maiden debut by 5 1/4 lengths on November 18, the Star Guitar filly scored a 7 1/4-length victory in the Louisiana Champions Day Lassie Stakes on December 9 to conclude her juvenile campaign. The bay lass receives the services of jockey Gary Stevens for the first time in this spot.
The Dixie Belle field is completed by stakes winner Secret Passion, stakes-placed Vision of Justice, maiden romper Thoughtless Doll and maiden-claiming scorer Getupbabygetup.
Oaklawn’s series for sophomore fillies continues February 10 with the $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes at a mile. The final two races, the $200,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) going 1 1/16 miles and $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) at the same distance, are worth points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points races. The Honeybee will award 50-20-10-5 to the respective top four on March 10 while the April 13 Fantasy is worth 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers.