A 5-year-old daughter of Touch Gold, Sugar Swirl enters off an outstanding performance in the Feb. 17 Hurricane Bertie Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream, where she buried the field by 8 3/4 lengths under Javier Castellano after stalking the early pace. It was the second consecutive graded stakes score for the Ontario-bred, who nearly a month earlier took the First Lady Handicap (gr. III) in similar fashion on a sloppy track.
Trained by Brian Lynch, Sugar Swirl began her winning streak in her final race as a 4-year-old when she triumphed in the Very Subtle Stakes by three lengths Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs. Overall, the remarkably consistent sprinter has been in the money in her last eight starts, dating back to May of last year. All of those efforts were in stakes company.
In her 18-race career, Sugar Swirl has compiled an 8-3-4 record with earnings of $591,124. She is out of the Distinctive Pro mare Astrapi.
Sugar Swirl will have the burden of carrying a race-high 124 pounds, which is six-nine pounds more than her rivals. Javier Castellano will get the return call and break from post seven.
If Sugar Swirl is to be challenged, it will likely come from John and Susan Moore’s Lady Marlboro. A 4-year-old Smoke Glacken filly, Lady Marlboro is also coming off a graded stakes victory at Gulfstream. It came Jan. 6 in the one-mile Sabin Handicap (gr. III), as she stalked pace, dueled in the stretch, and battled for a dead-heat under Castellano.
With Castellano riding Sugar Swirl in the Shirley Jones, John Velazquez will pick up the mount for trainer Jimmy Jerkens. Lady Marlboro has been very consistent as well, finishing off the board just twice in her 11-start career, which has included three wins. Out of the Doc’s Leader mare Lady Doc, she was bred in Kentucky by Hopewell investments.
Though off for more than two months, Lady Marlboro has been working steadily at Palm Meadows. Her last breeze was March 16 when she covered four furlongs in :48.60.
The other graded stakes winner in the field is Zayat Stables’ Baroness Thatcher. The 4-year-old Johannesburgfilly had a busy sophomore campaign, starting 10 times, which included six in-the-money finishes. Of those, the lone win came in her first start as a 3-year-old, a half-length score in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) on the Santa Anita Cushion Track. That was more than 14 months ago.
Baroness Thatcher has just one start this year. It was a fourth-place finish in allowance competition Feb. 27 at Gulfstream. Jose Lezcano will ride for trainer Bill Mott.
Windyindy, Featherbed, and Dixie Dreamer are all entering off allowance victories at Gulfstream. Windyindy is a Jim Tafel homebred filly and is trained by Carl Nafzger, the same connections that started 2007 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Street Sense.
$200,000 Shirley Jones Handicap (gr. II, Race 9, 5:13 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, Seven Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Baroness Thatcher (KY), 116, Jose Lezcano
2. Windyindy (KY), 115, Ariel Smith
3. Lady Marlboro (KY), 118, John R. Velazquez
4. Featherbed (KY), 116, Eibar Coa
5. Dixie Dreamer (FL), 116, Eddie Castro
6. Shaggy Mane (CA), 116, Cornelio H. Velasquez
7. Sugar Swirl (ON), 124, Javier Castellano