12/06/2012 1:35PM

Gulfstream Park: Dust and Diamonds looks hard to handle in Sugar Swirl


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Todd Pletcher’s powerhouse stable got even more powerful last month with the addition of Dust and Diamonds, who joined the barn just days after her second-place finish behind division leader Groupie Doll in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

Pletcher will waste little time getting Dust and Diamonds back in action, sending her out as the heavy favorite in Saturday’s $100,000 Sugar Swirl, the first graded stakes of the 2012-2013 Gulfstream Park meeting.

Dust and Diamonds, who was purchased by Stud TNT at the Fasig-Tipton November sale, has been lightly raced this season with the six-furlong Sugar Swirl to be just her sixth start of the year. The first five outings came for trainer Steve Asmussen and included three straight victories, a streak capped off by a 1 1/4-length triumph in Belmont Park’s Grade 2 Gallant Bloom Handicap. That performance earned Dust and Diamonds a ticket to the Breeders’ Cup, where she had the misfortune of running into Groupie Doll, who was arguably the best sprinter of either sex in this country in 2012.

“Obviously getting her like we did was a very unexpected but pleasant surprise,” said Pletcher. “We got her right after the sale. She came to us in very good condition and has settled in nicely. So far she’s done everything right, has had a couple of easy maintenance breezes, and my only concern is the fact she’ll be running back off such a big effort last time.”

Dust and Diamonds will carry high weight of 123 pounds under the allowance conditions of the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl, including jockey John Velazquez.

Only six other fillies and mares were entered to take on the Breeders’ Cup runner-up. Three of those potential rivals – Nakano, Spectacular Sky, and Golden Mystery – all come from the barn of trainer Marty Wolfson. Trainer Wayne Catalano also entered a pair, Sacristy and Honey Chile, with Hearts of Red completing the lineup.

Wolfson said he plans to run two of his three fillies but will likely wait until Saturday before making a final decision on which of the trio would start.

Nakano is coming off a third-place finish behind 2011 female champion sprinter Musical Romance in Calder’s Mike Sherman Memorial on Oct. 6. She was also third behind Musical Romance in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap.

Spectacular Sky tired badly after contesting the pace going a mile in the Grade 2 Chilukki at Churchill Downs five weeks ago, the setback snapping a three-race win streak that featured an easy win over males in Calder’s seven-furlong Whippleton.

Golden Mystery, who finished second beaten less than a length by Musical Romance after setting the pace in the Mike Sherman, also faced males in her last start when finishing a troubled fourth in the Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap.

“I’ll look at the race and see how it shapes up,” said Wolfson. “Nakano is a closer and the other two are speed. Spectacular Sky might be the class. I really like her, but I think she prefers 6 1/2 or seven furlongs better. Golden Mystery likes the six furlongs.”

Sacristy returns to the scene of her finest hour, a 1 3/4-length victory on New Year’s Day in the Grade 3 Old Hat. Sacristy has won just once in six subsequent starts but did finish second in a pair of Grade 2 events, the Beaumont and Raven Run, both those races decided over synthetic surfaces.

Catalano said he is undecided whether he would start Honey Chile, who has been graded stakes-placed twice this season, or wait to find a softer allowance spot later in the meet.

Hearts of Red won her maiden on the turf here last winter and is coming off a second-place finish in a seven furlong overnight stakes at Belmont.