01/09/2010 12:00AM

Few laggards in Sugar Swirl

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Bill Denver/Equiphotos
Tar Heel Mom, recent winner of the Seton Hall (above) and In Her Glory, is one of six in the Sugar Swirl coming off a victory.

With six of the nine starters entered off a victory, sharp form is a recurring trait Saturday in the $100,000 Sugar Swirl Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The Sugar Swirl is one of five sprint stakes on a card topped by the $100,000 Spectacular Bid and the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector.

Bold Union and Tar Heel Mom each comes off a stakes win at Aqueduct. Warbling and Honchis'n Ponchis are in from Kentucky off two straight wins each. D'wild Ride boasts a four-race win streak, and Sailing Time has won her last three.

Toss in the likes of Thunders Dove - whose five-race win streak was snapped by Indian Blessing and Sara Louise in a graded race in her last start in September - along with the 2009 Test Stakes runner-up, Pretty Prolific, and the six-furlong Sugar Swirl already seems to have earned every bit of its Grade 3 ranking.

Jimmy Baker, trainer of Pretty Prolific, called the Sugar Swirl lineup "very solid" while noting it lacks a top-caliber sprinter such as Flashing, who defeated the late-running Pretty Prolific by 1 1/2 lengths in the Grade 1 Test.

"This is our first time against older fillies, but my horse is doing super," said Baker. "It looks like the right spot for a lot of them. Hopefully we'll be the ones to get off to a good start on the year."

Favoritism in the Sugar Swirl could go a number of ways, although Gulfstream fans may ultimately settle on Thunders Dove, trained by Nick Zito. Before being overmatched in the Grade 2 Gallant Bloom at Belmont Park, the mare was sensational in reeling off those five straight triumphs, all of them coming by three lengths or more.

Thunders Dove, with John Velazquez to ride, was assigned post 8.

The Sugar Swirl had been known for its first 27 runnings as the First Lady Handicap until being renamed for this year in honor of the Stronach Stables standout who won seven stakes, including the 2008 First Lady. It goes as the sixth of 10 Saturday races.

Old Hat: Battle of unbeatens

Surely you could go the rest of the year and not see a stakes race in North America for horses at least 3 years old that attracted seven unbeaten horses. Yet that's the remarkable case with the $100,000 Old Hat Stakes (race 9), a Grade 3 race that drew 11 3-year-old fillies.

The unbeatens come in a variety of styles, from front-runners like Female Drama and Malibu Legacy to a closer like Carphonic. And then there's Cuff Me, a flashy New York-bred who dominated all three of her races, including a Dec. 4 stakes at Aqueduct as a 3-10 favorite.

Tony Dutrow is the trainer of Cuff Me, who shows three workouts at Palm Meadows since shipping south for the winter. Simply off the way she has looked, Cuff Me could be a solid favorite for the 29th Old Hat despite the impressive array of fillies set to face her. Cuff Me will break from post 5 in the six-furlong race with Ramon Dominguez in from New York to retain the mount.

The opposition includes My Jen, a game winner at the Fair Grounds three weeks ago.

"She's already become a hard knocker," said trainer Eddie Kenneally.

Dances With Ashley, a sharp allowance winner at Calder last out for Marty Wolfson, and Touching Beauty, one of the four fillies to previously taste defeat, are other logical considerations.

Turf Sprint: He shoots, he scores?

Speaking of unbeatens, a 4-year-old gelding named Hockeythehayman will try to run his career record to 5 for 5 in the $75,000 Gulfstream Park Turf Sprint (race 8).

Trained and co-owned by Wesley Ward, Hockeythehayman was named for the other owner, John Haagsma, a Southern California hay broker who goes by the nickname of Hockey. All the funny stuff aside, the gelding has improved steadily while remaining perfect, having most recently earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure in capturing an Oct. 28 allowance at Keeneland.

He will face easily his toughest test to date Saturday in the five-furlong turf race when he faces the likes of Elusive Warning, a lightly raced world traveler, and T.D. Vance, a consummate pro who has gone 2 for 2 since returning from a lengthy layoff.

Hockeythehayman, said Ward, "just exploded in that win the other day."

"He's done everything we've asked so far, and he's about out of conditions," Ward said. "He does have a breathing issue, but if he can run like he did at Keeneland, I'd have to give him a shot."

Velazquez has the call on Hockeythehayman, who was assigned post 5 in a field of 10 older horses.

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said an eye problem was a main reason Elusive Warning has been unraced since July 18. He added the 6-year-old will start only if the race remains on the grass.

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