Merry Meadow Returns to Action in Sugar Swirl
December 10, 2014 10:47am
Hot Stones edges Merry Meadow to win the 2014 Bed O' Roses at Belmont
Photo: NYRA Photo/Joe Labozzett

Merry Meadow didn’t take long to acclimate to South Florida or the Gulfstream Park West racetrack, scoring a victory in the Sky Beauty Stakes on Nov. 1, only days after shipping from Belmont Park.

The 4-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes, who is scheduled to return to action in Saturday’s $100,000 Sugar Swirl (G3) for fillies and mares at Gulfstream Park, wasn’t always such a quick study.

Although the Mark Hennig-trained filly had shown ability while finishing in the money in nine of her first 10 starts, she wasn’t successful in breaking through with a victory until her 11th career start.

“Once she won, she kind of liked the feeling. Whether it awakened her competitive spirit – she always was running well – it put her over the edge once she won the race,” Hennig said. “She changed a lot after winning the race. Every time she won a race, she kept moving forward.”

Despite a rather late graduation, Merry Meadow has developed into a solid graded-stakes performer for owners William Parsons Jr. and David Howe. She had run in five straight stakes, including a victorious performance in the Vagrancy Handicap (G3) at Belmont on May 17, before making her South Florida debut in the ungraded Sky Beauty. Favored at 3-2, Merry Meadow stalked the early pace before drawing off to a 1 ¾-length victory in the six-furlong stakes. Best Behavior, who finished second, came back to notch a front-running victory in the $110,000 Claiming Crown Glass Slipper at Gulfstream last Saturday.

“I was a little concerned because she’d never run a race over that track, but she’s been one that never needs to take her racetrack with her,” Hennig said. “I was cautiously optimistic – I guess that’s the best way to put it. It looked like a good spot, but you had to wonder if her form would translate on that racetrack.”

Javier Castellano, the defending three-time Gulfstream champ, has been named to ride Merry Meadow.

Merry Meadow has breezed three times over the Gulfstream Park track since her victory in preparation for the six-furlong Sugar Swirl, in which she is scheduled to meet five rivals.

Ol Donyo, who finished third behind Merry Meadow in the Sky Beauty, is scheduled to challenge the Hennig trainee again in the Sugar Swirl.

“She didn’t like that track. It was too deep for her,” said trainer Marty Wolfson, who also saddled Best Behavior in the Sky Beauty. “She likes this track.”

Previously, the 4-year-old daughter of Curlin scored back-to-back victories at Gulfstream Park in her first two starts for Wolfson. Newtown Anner Stud’s filly captured an open allowance on Aug. 7 before drawing off to a 3 ½-length victory in the $90.000 Musical Romance Stakes on Sept.20.

“She’s easy to be around. She’s low maintenance. She’s sound, mentally good. She’s nice,” said Wolfson, who named Joel Rosario to ride Ol Donyo for the first time. “She’s a Grade 3-type filly.”

Wolfson also entered Centrique, the 2013 Glass Slipper winner who came back from a four-month layoff to finish fifth in the Sky Beauty.

“She was flat. She just needed a race,” he said.

If R Free Roll fires fresh from a nine-week layoff, the 4-year-old daughter of Rockport Harbor looms as a strong contender. Prior to a fifth-place finish at Keeneland in the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (G2), the Kirk Ziadie-trained filly posted a front-running victory in the Honorable Miss (G2) at Saratoga on July 28. R. Free Roll finished three lengths clear of third-place finisher Merry Meadow.

Risky Rachel, a 7-year-old veteran stakes performer trained by George Weaver, and Grade 1 stakes-placed Wildcat Lily were also entered in the first graded stakes of the Championship Meet.

The Sugar Swirl is just one of four stakes scheduled for Saturday’s 10-race program. Hennig will also be well represented in the $100,000 South Beach, a 7 ½-furlong turf race for fillies and mares. Baffle Me put her trainer in the winner’s circle following last year’s running of the South Beach. The 5-year-old daughter of First Samurai shipped from New York to prevail by a half-length. While Hennig is following the same schedule this year, Baffle Me is coming off some subpar showings, whereas she entered the South Beach off back-to-back victories last year.

“She’s had some feet issues that have plagued her this year,” Hennig said. “But she’s doing very well, and she’s also one who excels in Florida. She likes it down there.”

A multiple-stakes winner with nearly $450,000 in earnings, Baffle Me has had four local workouts, including a solid half-mile on Dec. 6.

“She’s doing well. She’s been breezing well and seems to have settled in well there,” said Hennig, who named Joe Brave to ride Baffle Me. “We’re hopeful we can get her back on track.”

Defending her title in the South Beach will be a tall order for Baffle Me in a full field of 13 fillies and mares (plus one-main-track-only entrant).

Sassy Kitten, a Ken and Sarah Ramsey homebred who finished off the board while testing Grade 1 company in the First Lady at Keeneland last time out, will be looking to rebound in the South Beach. Trainer Mike Maker had previously saddled the 4-year-old daughter of Kitten’s Joy for back-to-back stakes wins.

Trainer Christophe Clement is slated to saddle Marbre Rose for her U.S. stakes debut in the South Beach. The 3-year-old daughter of Smart Strike, who began her career in France, made her U.S. debut with an off-the-pace allowance victory over a yielding turf course at Belmont on Oct. 12.

Shug McGaughey-trained Tokyo Time, who has demonstrated a fondness for the Gulfstream turf course during her career, will be seeking to rebound from a wide fifth-place finish in the Noble Damsel (G3) at Belmont in her most recent start on Sept. 13. The daughter of Medaglia d’Oro, previously won back-to-back allowance races.

“She got to going really well and won two in a row. At Belmont in that stake, she didn’t run very well, so I decided to give her a little time,” said McGaughey, whose 4-year-old trainee broke her maiden over the Gulfstream course before finishing second in a photo finish in the Herecomesthebride (G3) in 2013. “I sent her to Fair Hill. I wanted to run her, but I couldn’t find the right spot for her. So, I picked this spot and we’re going to run her. We’ll see how she does and figure out if we’re going to run her more down here or give her the winter off.”

Tuttipaesi, who also showed a fondness for the Gulfstream turf in 2013 when she captured the Ginger Brew and finished third in the Herecomesthebride, is scheduled to make her second start off a long layoff. The Bill Mott-trained 4-year-old filly finished second in the 2013 Ashland (G1) before going to the sidelines until Nov. 14, when she finished sixth in an Aqueduct allowance.

Why Katherine, a multiple graded stakes-placed 5-year-old mare; Ready Signal, a multiple-stakes winner over the Gulfstream course;  Red Minx, an allowance winner at Gulfstream Park West last time out off the claim by trainer Milt Wolfson; and Romantica Mia, an Argentine import who captured an off-the-turf allowance at Laurel last time out; were also entered in the South Beach.

Kitty Wine, She’s Spooky, Skylander Girl, Triple Arch and Toasting (main-track-only) round out the field.

Source: Gulfstream Park


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