Merry Meadow Rolls in Sugar Swirl
December 13, 2014 09:24am
Merry Meadow, winner of the 2014 Sugar Swirl
Photo: Gulfstream/Leslie Martin Photo

Patience paid off yet again for trainer Mark Hennig Saturday when the slow-developing Merry Meadow captured the $100,000 Sugar Swirl Stakes (G3), the first graded stakes event of Gulfstream Park’s 2014-2015 Championship Meet.

Merry Meadow, who didn’t earn her first trip to a winner’s circle until her 11th career start, followed up a victory in the Sky Beauty Stakes at Gulfstream Park West on Nov. 1 with a thoroughly professional triumph in Saturday’s six-furlong dash for fillies and mares, adding to a solid 2014 season in graded-stakes company.

“It just took her a while to break her maiden and she figured it out,” said Hennig following the 4-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes’ seventh career victory and second graded-stakes success.

Hennig also figured out the key to success for the William Parsons and David Howe homebred.

“She does well with some time between races; she’s a pretty easy filly to train. We figured out she didn’t like to get drilled on that much. I haven’t breezed her any closer than probably 10 days before a race in over a year. She just likes a little spacing,” Hennig said. “She handles it all pretty well. She’s very professional.”

Merry Meadow sat a few lengths off the pace set by 4-5 favorite R Free Roll and a stalking Wildcat Lily along the backstretch. On the far turn, Merry Meadow followed Wildcat Lily, as the 18-1 outsider made a move on the pacesetter around the turn. Leaving the turn into the homestretch, Edgard Zayas urged on R Free Roll but didn’t get the response he wanted, as Wildcat Lily moved to the lead under Paco Lopez. Javier Castellano steered Merry Meadow to the outside, and the 5-2 second choice kicked in, drawing off to win by 1 ¼ lengths.

“I’m very happy with the way she did it. The way the race developed, that’s where I wanted to be,” Castellano said. “It was a small field, and two horses had plenty of speed. I sat right behind the speed and the way it set up, it was perfect for me.”

The victory was the first victory from 13 mounts during the Championship Meet for Castellano, the three-time defending riding champion at Gulfstream.

“I was nervous a little bit, because when you ride a lot of horses you start to put the pressure on a little bit. This game is very competitive, and I’m glad I broke the ice in a stakes race like the Sugar Swirl. I remember a couple years ago I rode the filly Sugar Swirl and we were very successful. It worked out great today. I’m very satisfied with the way she did it,” said Castellano, who rode Sugar Swirl for a sweep of the First Lady, Hurricane Bertie and Shirley Jones handicaps at Gulfstream in 2008.

Merry Meadow ran the six furlongs in 1:10.29. Wildcat Lily held second, a head in front of a late-charging Ol Donyo. R Free Roll, who had defeated Merry Meadow while winning the Honorable Miss (G2) at Saratoga in July, faded to fourth, another half-length back. Centrique and Risky Rachel completed the order of finish.

The winner’s share of $61,380 pushed Merry Meadow’s career earnings to $600,550.

“We’ll see how she comes out of it. We were talking about giving her a little 30-day break up at Payson with my dad (John Hennig) and then get her back down here and run in something late in the meet,” Hennig said. “No pressure. It’s a long meet and she’s going to run next year.”

Source: Gulfstream Park Communications


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