Tar Heel Mom and Hilda's Passion staged a rugged stretch battle in the Sugar Swirl Stakes (gr. III) one month ago and both return to Gulfstream Park Feb. 13 to renew their rivalry in the $150,000 Hurricane Bertie Stakes (gr. III).
Consistent Tar Heel Mom took the lead at the head of the stretch in the Sugar Swirl and held off the gradually gaining Hilda's Passion by a neck for her fifth stakes victory while running the six furlongs in 1:09.75. Hilda's Passion, who was favored over Tar Heel Mom last time, will have an extra sixteenth of a mile to travel in the Hurricane Bertie, which drew five other older fillies and mares. The race is the 10th on the Gulfstream card with a 5:26 EST post.
Trained by Stanley Hough for owner Alex Rankin, Tar Heel Mom registered her first win in four tries at Gulfstream in the Sugar Swirl, which was her first start of the year. In her other three races over the South Florida oval, she finished second twice and third once.
The 6-year-old daughter of Flatter has compiled an enviable record of 8-5-5 in 22 lifetime races with earnings of $538,692. She won Aqueduct's Distaff Handicap (gr. II) on a muddy track last year shortly after running second in both the Hurricane Bertie and Inside Information Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream. Alan Garcia retains the mount on the hard-trying mare. They will break from post 6 under 121 pounds.
Hough said after the last race that Tar Heel Mom could be reaching the end of her racing career.
"We’ll run her through the series here like we did last year, and if she’s still going well, we’ll keep her in training. If not, and (she) shows signs of age, there is still a window to breed her.”
Hilda's Passion, winner of Keeneland's Raven Run Stakes (gr. II) on Polytrack last fall for owners Starlight Partners and C.E. Glasscock, and trainer Todd Pletcher, was also making her seasonal debut in the Sugar Swirl. She is a four-time winner from eight races with earnings of $250,256.
The 4-year-old daughter of Canadian Frontier carries co-top weight of 123 pounds (along with My Jen) and will be ridden from the inside post by Javier Castellano, who was aboard her for the first time in the previous start. In the Sugar Swirl, her first try at Gulfstream, the bay filly rallied while racing four paths wide coming into the stretch.
My Jen captured Belmont Park's Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) last fall and has not raced since having problems with the turn and finishing last in the seven-furlong Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) at Churchill Downs Nov. 5.
Windmill Manor Farm bred and owns the 4-year-old daughter of Fusaichi Pegasus . She is trained by Eddie Kenneally.
My Jen has had one prior start at Gulfstream, finishing seventh in the Old Hat Stakes (gr. III) at the start of last season when she was bumped in the stretch and faded. The lightly raced gray/roan filly began her career with three consecutive victories in 2009 and has won four of seven career starts overall while banking $191,000.
She drew the far outside post and will be ridden by Julien Leparoux, who was aboard her in the Gallant Bloom.
Others in the Hurricane Bertie field are Sugar Swirl third-place finisher Ms Vanenzza, stakes-placed Jehan, recent Gulfstream optional claiming winner In Perpetuity, and North Rodeo, coming off a sixth-place effort in the Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Sprint.
$100,000 Hurricane Bertie Stakes (gr. III, Race 10, 5:26 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 4 & Up, 6 1/2 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Hilda's Passion (KY), J Castellano, 123, T A Pletcher
2. In Perpetuity (KY), J R Velazquez, 117, K P McLaughlin
3. North Rodeo (CA), E Coa, 117, D Fawkes
4. Jehan (KY), A O Solis, 117, M D Wolfson
5. Ms Vanenzza (KY), R Maragh, 117, J C Vazquez
6. Tar Heel Mom (KY), A Garcia, 121, S M Hough
7. My Jen (KY), J R Leparoux, 123, E Kenneally