12/13/2014 3:48PM

Merry Meadow impresses in Sugar Swirl

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Leslie Martin
Merry Meadow and jockey Javier Castellano win the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl by 1 1/4 lengths Saturday.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Merry Meadow has found life in south Florida very much to her liking.
Based in New York throughout her career until shipping locally this fall, Merry Meadow followed her victory in Gulfstream Park West’s Sky Beauty on Nov. 1 with an even more impressive 1 1/4-length decision over Wildcat Lily in Saturday’s Grade 3 Sugar Swirl at Gulfstream Park.

Merry Meadow, the winner of the Grade 3 Vagrancy Handicap in May, stalked the early leaders under confident handling by Javier Castellano, challenged for command near the eighth pole, and won going away. Wildcat Lily, the longest price in the six-horse field at 16-1, stalked pacesetter R Free Roll and overtook that rival in early stretch but proved no match for the winner. Ol Donyo rallied belatedly to be third.

R Free Roll, the 4-5 favorite, quickly sprinted to command and slowed the opening half-mile to 45.74 seconds under jockey Edgard Zayas, only to gradually weaken once displaced on the lead at the top of the lane.

Merry Meadow, a 4-year-old daughter of Henny Hughes, is trained by Mark Hennig for the partnership of William Parsons and David Howe. She completed six furlongs in 1:10.29 over a fast track and paid $7.20. 
The win was the first of the meet for three-time defending jockey champion Castellano.

“It took her a while to break her maiden, and then she really figured it out,” said Hennig. “She runs well with time between races. She’s pretty easy to train once I figured out she doesn’t want to be drilled on that much. She’s very professional. She doesn’t seem to need her racetrack; she runs well anywhere. I think every time she wins a race, she really gets her confidence up. After a couple of tough races where she ran hard and lost in New York, we wanted to bring her down here and try to win a couple of races and build her confidence back up again.”

Hennig said Merry Meadow, who’ll race again as a 5-year-old, may get a 30-day break at Payson Park with his father, John, before resuming her career in 2015.