Gary Barber, Rocky Top Stable and LEMB Stables’ Florida-bred Dancing N Dixie, graded-stakes placed in each of her last two starts, looks to break through against 13 rivals including undefeated favorite Hard to Justify in Friday’s $600,000 Edgewood (Grade 2) presented by TwinSpires at Churchill Downs.

Scheduled for a mile-and-a-sixteenth on the grass, the Edgewood for 3-year-old fillies is the sixth of seven graded-stakes on a 13-race program, immediately preceding the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) as Race 10. 

Dancing N Dixie was bred in Florida by the late Freddie Hyatt, an All-American rusher and wide receiver at Auburn University that went on to play six seasons in the National Football League for the St. Louis Cardinals, New Orleans Saints and Washington Redskins starting in 1968.

Trained by U.S. and Canadian Hall of Famer Mark Casse, a back-to-back winner of the Edgewood with Catch a Glimpse (2016) and La Coronel (2017), Dancing N Dixie was a bargain $35,000 buy at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Open 2-Year-Olds and Horses of Racing Age sale in June 2023, consigned by Blue River Bloodstock.

Dancing N Dixie raced on both dirt and synthetics during her juvenile campaign, winning the $90,000 Our Dear Peggy by a half-length against open company going a mile-and-70 yards on the all-weather course last November at Gulfstream Park.

Moved to the turf for her sophomore season opener, the $125,000 Ginger Brew going a mile on Jan. 6 at Gulfstream, Dancing N Dixie endured a nightmarish trip that started with her being bumped out of the gate and wound up with her finishing sixth, though beaten only four-and-a-half lengths by winner Ozara.

Undeterred by the effort, Casse kept Dancing N Dixie on grass for her next start, the mile-and-a-sixteenth Florida Oaks (G3), where she was sent off at odds of 68-1, second-longest in a field of 11. Last after a quarter mile and still nine lengths back after a half, she came with a strong rally under Gabriel Maldonado and wound up third, beaten just a length by winner Waskesiu and just a head out of second.

Dancing N Dixie was cut back to a mile for her most recent start, the April 6 Appalachian (G2) at Keeneland. Once again, she found herself trailing the 12-horse field, this time after three-quarters of a mile, but overcame some trouble and a seven-wide trip through the stretch to be third, beaten less than a length for it all at 10-1 odds. The top two finishers, two-time Grade 2-winner Buchu and Mo Fox Givin, also return in the Edgewood.

By Neolithic, who stands at Pleasant Acres Stallions, out of the Uncaptured mare Foolhearted Woman, Dancing N Dixie owns two wins and two thirds from eight starts with $138,235 in earnings.

She will break from outside all but one horse in post 12 with jockey Jose Ortiz, who rides back following the Appalachian. Ortiz tied for second at the recently-concluded Keeneland spring meet with 15 wins.

The 2-1 program favorite in the Edgewood is Hard to Justify, a daughter of 2018 Triple Crown champion Justify that has visited the winner’s circle after each of her three races. The bay filly broke her maiden at Saratoga and captured the Miss Grillo (G2) during the Belmont at Aqueduct meet, both at the Edgewood distance, and capped her season with a half-length triumph in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) at Santa Anita.

Return to the May 2 issue of Wire to Wire