Sugar Swirl: Tar Heel Mom makes amends

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Tar Heel Mom appeared home free at midstretch in last year's $100,000 Sugar Swirl at Gulfstream Park only to falter in the final strides and finish third, beaten a head by Pretty Prolific.

On Saturday, Tar Heel Mom found herself in a similar position, clear on the lead at midstretch, in the 2011 edition of the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl. Only this time she was able to hold on to the wire, outlasting the 2-1 favorite Hilda's Passion to post a hard-fought neck decision for the second graded stakes win of her career. She also won the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap last spring at Aqueduct.

Tar Heel Mom is fortunate just to be racing again after she sustained a small condylar fracture in her hind cannon bone shortly after her third-place finish in Belmont Park's Grade 2 Vagrancy Handicap last May. But she's returned from surgery as good as ever for trainer Stanley Hough and owner Alex Rankin.

With regular rider Alan Garcia aboard, Tar Heel Mom broke alertly to prompt the early pace of D'wild Ride while well positioned three-wide down the backstretch and around the turn. She overtook the leader in early stretch and after edging clear nearing the sixteenth pole was all out to last. Hilda's Passion raced just behind Tar Heel Mom and four-wide into the stretch and was gaining gradually on the winner through the final furlong.

Tar Heel Mom ($7.40) completed six furlongs in 1:09.75.

"Last year in this race she looked like she had it and then she didn't," said Hough. "After the injury I thought she might be done but she underwent surgery, they put one screw in and she was back in six months. She was a little fresh and got a little tired in her first start back and hopefully she'll move forward off of this one."

Hough said he is hoping to have Tar Heel Mom go through the same series of graded filly and mare sprint races here this winter as she did a year ago when she finished second in both the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie and the Grade 2 Inside Information.