Tar Heel Mom, who fires nearly every time, ran another big race to begin her 6-year-old campaign, this time holding off Hilda's Passion by neck to take the $100,000 Sugar Swirl (gr. III) (VIDEO) Jan. 15 at Gulfstream Park.
Owned by Alex Rankin and trained by Stanley Hough, Tar Heel Mom has now hit the board in eight consecutive starts and 18 of 22 overall. This was her fifth stakes victory and first since scoring the Distaff Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct last April. The win also avenged a tough defeat in last year’s Sugar Swirl when she finished third by a head in a three-way photo.
With Alan Garcia aboard, Tar Heel Mom tracked pacesetter D'wild Ride through opening splits of :22.13 and :44.84. The daughter of Flatter moved up to enage the leader nearing the quarter-pole and took a narrow advantage turning for home. But her work was not finished. She then had to hold off a furious late run by Hilda’s Passion and Javier Castellano, who entered the lane four-wide and chased Tar Heel Mom to the wire.
The final time for six furlongs on the fast dirt was 1:09.75. Hilda’s Passion was 2 1/4 lengths better than Ms Vanenzza and Rajiv Maragh.
Tar Heel Mom won for the first time in four starts at Gulfstream. In 2010, she won just once in six starts but was runner-up twice and third three more times. With the win on Saturday, she upped her career earnings to $538,692.
"It looked like she had this race won last year, but got beat on the wire," Hough said. "She came out of the Vagrancy (May 29) with a condylar (fracture) in a hind cannon bone. We put a screw in it and she came back good, so we decided to go on with her. She might have been a little short for her race back (third in Dec. 4 Garland of Roses at Aqueduct).
"We’ll run her through the series here like we did last year (gr. III Hurricane Bertie next on Feb. 13), and if she’s still going well we’ll keep her in training. If not, and shows signs of age, there is still a window to breed her.”
The winner was bred in Kentucky by Rankin's Upson Downs Farm and is out of the Sunny’s Halo mare Perpetual Light.
Sent off as the second choice in a field of 10, Tar Heel Mom paid $7.40, $3.80, and $3. The exacta (6-10) paid $32 and the trifecta (6-10-7) was worth $94.90 for $1.