Alex Rankin’s Tar Heel Mom, the Distaff Handicap (gr. II) winner last month at Aqueduct, will tote top weight of 119 pounds as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the $150,000 Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II) May 29 at Belmont. The 6 1/2-furlong event for fillies and mares drew a field of seven.
Trained by Stanley Hough and to be ridden by Alan Garcia, Tar Heel Mom finally broke through with her first graded stakes score in the April 17 Distaff Handicap over a muddy track after narrowly missing in her last three tries. The 5-year-old daughter of Flatter fell a head short in the Jan. 9 Sugar Swirl (gr. III) when third, then finished runner-up in both the Feb. 13 Hurricane Bertie (gr. III) and March 14 Inside Information (gr. II)—all of them at Gulfstream Park.
Bred in Kentucky by Upson Downs Farm and out of the Sunny’s Halo mare Perpetual Light, Tar Heel Mom has produced a 7-5-3 record from 19 starts and earnings of $457,192. She has a 1-1-1 record from four starts at Belmont. Garcia won last year’s Vagrancy aboard Carolyn’s Cat.
The dark bay/brown mare has turned in three works—all at Saratoga—in preparation for the Vagrancy.
Trainer Todd Pletcher seeks his first win in the race with a pair of capable contenders, including Mill House’s Hour Glass, who finished runner-up to Tar Heel Mom by 2 1/2 lengths in the Distaff Handicap. The consistent 4-year-old Petionville filly has hit the board in all but one of her eight lifetime starts, with four wins to her credit. Prior to the Distaff, Hour Glass notched her first stakes victory in the restricted Wheel Turns Stakes March 21 at Aqueduct. David Cohen keeps the mount.
"She’s developed very well over the winter,” said Pletcher of Hour Glass, who was a close fourth three starts back in the grade II Barbara Fritchie on Presidents Day in her first attempt against graded competition. “We were happy to win a stakes with her and glad to have the opportunity to try to win a graded stakes. That’s what we’re hoping for."
Pletcher’s other charge will be Edward Evans’ homebred Malibu Prayer, winner of the grade II Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Downs last November. But this will be her first start since that score and the first time she will race off an extended layoff. The daughter of Malibu Moon will make her 4-year-old debut with John Velazquez in the irons.
Never off the board in nine starts, Malibu Prayer was runner-up three times in graded action as a sophomore—to Rachel Alexandra, by nearly 20 lengths, in the Mother Goose (gr. I); to Careless Jewel in the Delaware Oaks (gr. II); and to Just Jenda in the Monmouth Oaks (gr. III). She won the Cat Chat Stakes by nearly seven lengths at Belmont last September.
“She has no conditions left and this seems like a good spot (for her return), even though it might be a little short,” said Pletcher. “She has good tactical speed, so I think she’ll be in a good spot."
Hour Glass and Malibu Prayer, who will race uncoupled, are 7-2 co-second choices.
An intriguing starter to watch for is New York-bred Rightly So, who makes her graded stakes debut for Zayat Stables and trainer Tony Dutrow. The speedy Rightly So won five straight races in 2009, including a pair of restricted stakes in New York. She has narrowly missed in both starts this season. The 4-year-old daughter of Read the Footnotes drew the rail and will get rider Cornelio Velasquez for the first time.
Kiaran McLaughlin, who sent out Carolyn’s Cat a year ago, will be represented by Saarlight, runner-up in an optional claimer at Belmont May 12 in her season debut.
$150,000 Vagrancy Handicap (gr. II, Race 9, 5:17 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 6 1/2 Furlongs (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Rightly So (NY), C H Velasquez, 114, A W Dutrow
2. Hour Glass (KY), D Cohen, 117, T A Pletcher
3. Tar Heel Mom (KY), A Garcia, 119, S M Hough
4. Malibu Prayer (VA), J R Velazquez, 117, T A Pletcher
5. Hold That Prospect (FL), J F Chavez, 115, G P Gullo
6. Lady Alexander (FL), J Castellano, 115, B F Alexander
7. Saarlight (KY), E Coa, 114, K P McLaughlin