That is due to trainer Christophe Clement's addition of the quick grade II winner Moon Catcher to the line-up for the seven-furlong main track event for older fillies and mares. Two of the original seven entrants are out this time, leaving the Shirley Jones with a field of six.
Stronach Stable’s 5-year-old mare Sugar Swirl, carrying high weight of 124 pounds with regular rider Javier Castellano back aboard, bids to complete a sweep of the Gulfstream meet's distaff sprint division stakes for trainer Brian Lynch. The Canadian homebred chestnut turned in monstrous tallies in the First Lady (gr. III) and Hurricane Bertie (gr. III) handicaps earlier in the meet. Sugar Swirl won the Hurricane Bertie by nearly nine lengths and the First Lady, contested on a sloppy track, by 2 1/2.
The daughter of Stronach’s 1997 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Touch Gold, Sugar Swirl seeks her fourth consecutive stakes victory. She won the Very Subtle Stakes at Churchill Downs in early November for trainer Bobby Frankel before being sent to Lynch at Palm Meadows for a winter campaign. Her lifetime record stands at 8-3-4 in 18 starts with earnings of $591,124.
The 4-year-old filly Moon Catcher, owned by Marsha Naify, hasn't been out since Oct. 13 when she defeated fellow Maryland breds by 4 1/2 lengths in the Maryland Million Oaks going one mile at Laurel Park. The daughter of Malibu Moon won back-to-back stakes on the front end at Delaware Park last spring, taking both the Susan's Girl Breeders' Cup and the rich Delaware Oaks (gr. II). She has earned $663,450 in an 11-race career that includes six victories, all coming last year. Rene Douglas takes the reins for the first time on Moon Catcher.
Another formidable rival is IEAH Stables and partners’ 5-year-old mare Shaggy Mane with Cornelio Velasquez to ride for trainer Rick Dutrow, who will be running her for the first time in the Shirley Jones.
The California-bred daughter of Bertrando was a leader in the filly and mare sprint division last year when based in California with trainer Don Chatlos Jr. She shipped east to win the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint at Gulfstream in January by 7 1/2 lengths and finished a game second in the Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) at Calder in July.
Shaggy Mane has won six of 14 career starts with one second, but has failed to hit the board in three tries on synthetic tracks, most recently finishing fifth in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.
Zayat Stable’s Baroness Thatcher, trained by Bill Mott, was grade I placed three times last year and ran fourth in her only start in 2008.
Miklin Stable’s Dixie Dreamer, coming off an allowance victory for trainer Marty Wolfson, and Bonnie and Sy Baskin’s Featherbed, also an allowance winner last time out for Todd Pletcher, complete the field.
$200,000 Shirley Jones Handicap (gr. II, Race 5, 3:11 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Dixie Dreamer (FL), 116, Eddie Castro
2. Sugar Swirl (ON), 124, Javier Castellano
3. Shaggy Mane (CA), 116, Cornelio H. Velasquez
4. Moon Catcher (MD), 118, Rene R. Douglas
5. Baroness Thatcher (KY), 116, John R. Velazquez
6. Featherbed (KY), 116, Eibar Coa