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Tar Heel Mom Heads Garland of Roses

Saturday’s $65,000 Garland of Roses Handicap, the first of seven stakes scheduled for the Big A’s inner track this year, has drawn a contentious field of seven fillies and mares headed by graded stakes winner Tar Heel Mom.


The 5-year-old mare, winner of the Grade 2 Distaff Handicap at Aqueduct Racetrack in April, comes into the six-furlong race off a lengthy layoff to recuperate from a leg injury suffered during her third-place finish in the Grade 2 Vagrancy at Belmont Park in May. Returned to trainer Stanley Hough in October, the daughter of Flatter has been breezing steadily over Belmont’s training track towards her return, including a trio of five-furlong works, most recently an easy 1:01.16 move on Sunday.


“The Garland of Roses is a good place to start,” said Hough, who trains Tar Heel Mom for Alex Rankin. “She’s been doing very well. And the timing is right. Her owners would be delighted to race her next year if she does well.”


The Garland of Roses will mark the first non-graded stakes start of the year for Tar Heel Mom, who began the year at Gulfstream Park with a third in the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl and a pair of second-place finishes in the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie and Grade 3 Inside Information. Overall, she has compiled a record of 7-5-4 from 20 starts including a 3-1-0 mark from four starts at the Big A, among them victories in the In Her Glory and Meadow Star Stakes.


“She obviously likes the track,” said Hough.


With Alan Garcia aboard and toting high weight of 123 pounds, Tar Heel Mom drew post position 3 as the 5-2 favorite.


Another consistent performer drawing into the Garland of Roses is Henry, Joseph, and Jamie Terranova’s Meese Rocks, who has been first, second, or third in all but two of her last 15 starts. The 5-year-old daughter of Rock and Roll, who counts the Iroquois, the Union Avenue and the Personal Girl Stakes among her New York-bred victories this year, will be making her first stakes start facing open company in the Garland of Roses.


“I’m so blessed to have a horse like her – she’s a joy to be around, always tries hard, and does everything you ask her to do,” said trainer Edward Barker. “We gave her some time off this spring, because she had run awfully hard, but since she’s been back, she seems to be coming out of each race a little better.”


Junior Alvarado rides Meese Rocks, 4-1 on the morning line, from post position 5.

Nicole H, a 3-year-old Mr. Greeley filly who began her career in California, impressed in her New York debut, drawing off to an effortless 10 ¾-length allowance win at Belmont Park on September 22. Second over a sloppy track at Monmouth in her first start on the East coast in August, Nicole H was most recently seventh as the favorite in the Dream Supreme at Churchill Downs on November 6.


Trained by Mike Hushion, Nicole H will leave from post position 2 as the 3-1 second choice. Ramon Dominguez rides.


McVictory, who was 1-2-1 in optional claimers at the Big A earlier this year, exits a solid second-place finish in the Justakiss at Delaware Park behind Spacy Tracy, next-out winner of the Grade 2 Top Flight. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the 4-year-old Victory Gallop filly has been no worse than third in her last 10 starts. David Cohen rides the WinStar Farm colorbearer, 7-2 on the morning line, from post 7.


 Rounding out the field are Love That Dance, winner of three of her last four starts on the mid-Atlantic circuit for trainer Benny Perkins, Jr.; Dontgetsuspicious, longshot winner of the HBPA Municipalities Mayor Handicap at Charles Town, and Ocean Goddess, most recently fourth in the Top Secret at Belmont Park.


The field for the $65,000 Garland of Roses








Love That Dance (NJ)

J Lezcano

B W Perkins, Jr.




Nicole H (KY)

R A Dominguez

M E Hushion




Tar Heel Mom (KY)

A Garcia

S M Hough




Don'tgetsuspicious (KY)

E D Rodriguez

H I McMahon




Meese Rocks (NY)

J Alvarado

E R Barker




Ocean Goddess (FL)

J L Espinoza

W H Turner, Jr.




McVictory (KY)

D Cohen

T A Pletcher






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