One day after securing the single-season North American earnings record for a jockey, Javier Castellano picked up a graded win Dec. 14 at Gulfstream Park when he guided Heart Stealer in the $100,000 Sugar Swirl Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO).
After Munnings Sister stayed close to pacesetter R Free Roll through a quarter-mile in :22.25 and half-mile in :44.81, she moved to challenge the early leader in upper stretch. But after racing in fifth early, Castellano confidently angled 11-10 favorite Heart Stealer four wide and the 3-year-old Speightstown filly soon responded to the challenge. She caught the early leaders past mid-stretch and got up in the final strides to post a neck victory over R Free Roll.
"We discussed it before the race and we had a plan. We thought there was a lot of speed in the race, and she doesn't have to be on the lead. The way the race unfolds is going to help us," Castellano said. "(Trainer Marty Wolfson) gave the green light and gave me the confidence to ride the horse off the pace a little bit, and it paid off. I know it was kind of close, but when I asked her, she responded so well in the last part."
In her first career start in a graded stakes race, Peachtree Stable's Heart Stealer turned the tables on R Free Roll, who was able to hold her off for a front-running victory in the Bold World Handicap Nov. 2 at Calder Casino & Race Course.
"She tried to run with that filly last time. She doesn't need to do that," Wolfson said. "When she came to me, she was very rank. Now you can take her back. At the eighth pole, I didn't know if she would get there, but once she leveled out the last 20 yards, I thought she'd get up. But it's a little too short for her."
Heart Stealer completed six furlongs in 1:09.49 on a fast track, giving Castellano his fourth Sugar Swirl victory.
A game R Free Roll held earned a stakes placing in her third straight race while Munnings Sister, also by Speightstown, was another neck back in third, earning her fourth stakes placing in her most recent five starts. The winner returned $4.20 to win, $2.20 to place, and $2.60 to show. Second-choice R Free Roll returned $3.20 and $2.80 while Munnings Sister paid $3.80.
Bred in Kentucky by Fairlawn Farm, Heart Stealer is the first stakes winner out of the stakes-winning Distorted Humor mare Saratoga Humor. Peachtree's John Fort purchased Heart Stealer for $300,000 at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale from the consignment of Dromoland Farm, agent.