It was the second consecutive graded stakes victory for the 5-year-old Touch Gold mare. On Jan. 13, the Ontario-bred won by 2 ½ length in the First Lady Handicap (gr. III), also at Gulfstream. Overall, it was Sugar Swirl’s third win in a row and her eighth from 18 career starts for owner-breeder Frank Stronach.
Change Up finished second, three lengths in front of Silver Knockers. V.I.P. Princess was fourth. The final time was 1:22.77 for seven furlongs.
Cher Ami jumped to the early lead from post two, setting aggressive fractions of :22.02 and :44.54. Change Up was second, followed by Sugar Swirl and Silver Knockers. But just past the half-mile pole, Sugar Swirl, under guiding from Javier Castellano, made her decisive move for the front, overtaking the pacesetter with ease.
As they came out of the turn, Sugar Swirl was ahead by four lengths and Change Up, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, was the only horse who seemed to be able to challenge. But at the sixteenth-pole it was clear that Sugar Swirl was in another gear, cruising to the wire under a hand ride.
“Kent rushed out of the gate (on Change Up), which was good for me," Castellano said." I saw the two horse (Cher Ami) take the lead, so I took advantage. My filly was so sharp early in the race; she was just galloping along. I hit her a couple of times just to keep her focused, because she started to look around (once she got the lead).
"No matter what, she was primed and ready. There’s no question about her being able to go longer based on the way she ran today. I had a ton of horse going for home.”
Out of the Distinctive Pro mare Astrapi, Sugar Swirl has earned more than $620,000, hitting the board in all but three lifetime starts. She is a five-time stakes winner.
“She’s really blossomed as a 5-year-old," said trainer Brian Lynch, who took over conditioning duties from Bobby Frankel this winter. "She just puts herself into the race when she wants.
"I wouldn’t mind trying to stretch her out again, but we’ve got the mare that won earlier today (Spring Waltz, who won the sixth race allowance at 1 1/8 miles) for the Rampart (gr. II, Mar. 9), so we’ll let this one come back in the seven-eighths (Shirley Jones Handicap - gr. II - Mar. 22). As good as she is now, there are all kinds of options for her.”
Sugar Swirl, who benefited when her toughest challenger, Lady Marlboro, was scratched, paid $3.40, $2.40, and $2.10. The exacta (5-8) was worth $10.40, while the trifecta (5-8-6) returned $21.60.
Cher Ami was fifth, followed by Linda May. Bereba was also scratched.