Strike the Moon Drills 'Bullet' for Sugar Swirl Start
R. Larry Johnson’s 3-year-old Kentucky homebred filly Strike the Moon worked a sharp half-mile in 47 flat Saturday morning at Palm Meadows Training Center for trainer Michael Trombetta in preparation for a probable start in next Saturday’s $100,000 Sugar Swirl Stakes (G3) going six furlongs at Gulfstream Park.
“We’re planning on it if all goes well,” said Trombetta, who was on hand for the drill that earned the ‘bullet’ as fastest of 28 horses timed at the distance. “She’s had a great season, but the one thing that has eluded us so far with her is a Graded stakes victory.”
Strike the Moon is a daughter of Malibu Moon and finished fifth last out in the Raven Run Stakes (G2) run over the synthetic surface at Keeneland going seven furlongs on Oct. 22, beaten only three quarters of a length for it all. She scored her biggest victory and only stakes win in the $400,000 Charles Town Oaks in September in her previous start.
Strike the Moon has won three times with four seconds in nine career starts, three of the runner-up efforts coming in consecutive stakes starts earlier this year. She finished second by a neck in the Miss Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in May, second by a length in the Jostle Stakes at Parx in June and second by a head behind St. John’s River in the Delaware Oaks (G2) in July after leading by 3 ½ lengths at the eighth pole.
Trombetta will commute over the winter season between his headquarters in Maryland at Laurel Park and a division at Palm Meadows. His South Florida campaign is already off to a fast start as he has won two stakes at the recently concluded Calder meet.
Robert Liebner’s 4-year-old gelding Bad Debt captured the $125,000 Bonnie Heath Turf Cup on Florida Million day, Nov. 12; and Three Diamond Stable’s 5-year-old gelding Jimanator posting a mild upset over favored Mambo Meister in the $100,000 Fred Hooper Handicap (G3) on Nov. 26, the latter a $20,000 claim at Saratoga in August. Trombetta was credited with his 1,000th career victory last month.
Also next weekend, Trombetta has Marathon Stable’s 4-year-old Kentucky homebred filly Grecian Maiden nominated for the $60,000 South Beach Stakes Sunday going 7 ½ furlongs on turf and indicated she is likely to start. The chestnut daughter of Ghostzapper finished sixth last out in the $100,000 My Charmer Handicap (G3) at Calder on Nov. 24, although beaten only 3 ¼ lengths for it all in an even effort.
Also on the Palm Meadows work tab Saturday morning and nominated for the Sugar Swirl was Terra Di Sienna Stable’s 4-year-old Florida homebred filly Pica Slew, timed five furlongs in 1:00 1/5 for trainer Brian Lynch. The daughter of Pico Central won the $150,000 Azalea Stakes (G3) in the summer of 2010 at Calder when trained by Joe Calascibetta, but hasn’t run since a sixth-place finish in the Santa Monica Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita on Jan. 30 when in the care of trainer John Shirreffs.
Lynch trained Stronach Stable’s Sugar Swirl through part of her career, including the 2008 winter season here when the daughter of Touch Gold swept the three Graded stakes races for filly and mare sprinters at Gulfstream. She won the First Lady Handicap (G3) in January, the race now known as the Sugar Swirl, the Hurricane Bertie Handicap (G3) in February and the Shirley Jones Handicap (G3) in March.
A Canadian homebred, Sugar Swirl began her career at Woodbine with the late Hall of Fame horseman Bobby Frankel as trainer and Lynch the assistant in charge of that division. After the three stakes victories at Gulfstream, Sugar Swirl finished up her career with Frankel, finishing third in the Thoroughbred club of America (G3) at Keeneland in October of 2008 in her final appearance.
The likely favorite for the Sugar Swirl will be Hardacre Farm’s 3-year-old filly Pomeroys Pistol, a good fourth last out in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) for owner-breeder-trainer Amy Tarrant. The Florida-bred daughter of Pomeroy made three starts here last winter, finishing second in the Old Hat Stakes (G3), won the Forward Gal Stakes (G2) and finished third in the Davona Dale Stakes (G2).