12/01/2010 3:45PM

Garland of Roses a crossroads for Tar Heel Mom

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Tar Heel Mom, Ramon Dominguez up, wins the Grade 2 Distaff.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. – Already a Grade 2 winner who is about to turn 6 years old, Tar Heel Mom would seem the ideal candidate to be heading to the breeding shed in a couple of months. But if she’s able to return to the form she displayed before an injury sidelined her last spring, Tar Heel Mom may have another year of racing ahead of her.

Away from the races after suffering a hind leg fracture last May, Tar Heel Mom is scheduled to return in Saturday’s $65,000 Garland of Roses Handicap for fillies and mares at Aqueduct. A field of seven was entered for the Garland of Roses, run at six furlongs over the inner track. Tar Heel Mom, who won the Grade 2 Distaff in April, is the 123-pound highweight.

After narrow losses in three graded stakes at Gulfstream last winter, Tar Heel Mom shipped to Aqueduct to win the Distaff over Aqueduct’s main track. She was beaten less than a length by Hour Glass and Rightly So in the Grade 2 Vagrancy at Belmont, from which she emerged with a condylar fracture of her left hind leg. She required surgery and a couple of screws to stabilize the injury, but Tar Heel Mom returned to training in early October for Stanley Hough.

“They will let you know pretty quickly if it’s going to be a problem,” Hough said Wednesday from south Florida where the bulk of his stable is based. “Her’s seems to be good. She’s been training like her old self.”

Hough said that with the breeding season still several months away, Tar Heel Mom would have ample opportunity to show whether she should race for another year or be retired and bred. Tar Heel Mom ran in three graded stakes at Gulfstream last winter, finishing second or third in each one.

“We have time to run her a couple of times, and if she doesn’t come back to herself there’d be time to breed her, and if she did come back to herself she could race for another year,” said Hough, who trains Tar Heel Mom for owner Alex Rankin.

Tar Heel Mom drew post 3 and will be ridden by Alan Garcia. The Garland of Roses field includes Love That Dance, Nicole H, Don’tgetsuspicious, Meese Rocks, Ocean Goddess, and McVictory.

Belmont inner turf expanding

While turf season winds down for this season, the New York Racing Association is already planning ahead to next year’s grass season – specifically at Belmont Park.

NYRA has nearly completed a $975,000 project that will effectively expand Belmont’s inner turf course by two more lanes, allowing for greater usage.

According to Glen Kozak, NYRA’s director of racing surfaces, NYRA has been able to move the crown of the inner turf course from 45 feet off the inside hedge to almost 66 feet.

“With the amount of turf races that we run, this will give us flexibility to move the rail more frequently,” Kozak said.

Kozak said that instead of three rail settings – nine, 18, and 27 feet – the rails could be set at 36 or 45 feet from the inside hedge as well. Kozak said that he and racing secretary P.J. Campo are still discussing whether to move the Teletimers or go to “about distances,” for some races, as is done at some other tracks.

Kozak said expanding the number of running lanes on the inner turf course will not affect Belmont’s outer course at all.

Meanwhile, Kozak said he was hopeful that there could be a few more days of racing on Aqueduct’s turf, but that it depended how much rain fell Wednesday and how quickly the surface dried out. Racing was canceled Wednesday and Thursday’s three turf races were moved to the main track. There are three turf races carded for Friday and Saturday as well.

Though Wednesday’s temperature was in the mid-50s, it was expected to get significantly colder moving forward with highs only in the low 40s expected through early next week.

Apprentice Kaplan moving to New York

Apprentice jockey Tyler Kaplan, 17, plans to move his tack from Arizona to New York and ride the winter meet at Aqueduct. He is represented by agent Ken Goldberg.

Kaplan, who won with his first mount on March 4 at Santa Anita, has ridden 77 winners from 568 mounts, the majority of those winners coming at Yavapai Downs in Arizona, where he finished third in the standings with 50 winners. Most recently, Kaplan has been riding at Turf Paradise, where he has won 13 races from 201 mounts.