12/17/2016 4:04PM

Dearest beats elders in Sugar Swirl

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Lauren King/Bob Coglianese Photos Inc.
Dearest, with Edgard Zayas aboard, scores by one length over You Bought Her in the Sugar Swirl Stakes on Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Dearest passed her first test against older horses with flying colors, readily disposing of odds-on favorite Stonetastic en route to a one-length decision over You Bought Her in Saturday’s Grade 3 Sugar Swirl at Gulfstream Park.

With Edgard Zayas aboard, Dearest engaged Stonetastic midway down the backstretch, took control entering the stretch and, after opening a comfortable advantage, held off a belated rally from You Bought Her. The latter finished willingly despite failing to change leads through the stretch while never really threatening the winner.

Stonetastic, who finished second as the odds-on favorite despite a tough trip in the 2015 Sugar Swirl, had no such excuse this time. The Grade 2 winner sprinted to the lead, as expected, but could not match strides with Dearest into the stretch, steadily weakening to finish a disappointing third, more than four lengths behind the winner.

Danessa Again and Winning for Sarah rounded out the order of finish. Sky Gold scratched earlier in the day.

Dearest, a daughter of Midshipman owned by Gelfenstein Farm and trained by Gilbert Zerpa, was making her first start since finishing second in the Grade 2 Prioress at Saratoga on Sept. 4. She completed her 3-year-old season with four victories in six starts and earnings in excess of $270,000.

Dearest completed six furlongs in 1:09.59 and paid $5.

“Instructions were at the break to put her behind [Stonetastic],” Zerpa said through an interpreter. “But Dearest had a really good break and was able to put herself in a great position. She is at her best right now and in optimal condition."