08/07/2011 6:10PM

Saratoga: Tar Heel Mom runs Honorable Miss opponents off their feet

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Barbara D. Livingston
Tar Heel Mom shows her love of Saratoga and six furlongs in the Honorable Miss.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Tar Heel Mom’s initial visits to Parx Racing and Delaware Park ended in disappointment. It took a trip back to arguably her favorite track - Saratoga - to get the 6-year-old mare back to the winner’s circle.

In a race seemingly loaded with speed, Tar Heel Mom proved quicker than the rest, taking the lead less than a quarter of a mile into the race, then extending her advantage at every call en route to a 5 3/4-length victory in Sunday’s Grade 2, $150,000 Honorable Miss Handicap at Saratoga.

Beat the Blues, who chased Tar Heel Mom from the outset, finished second, 1 3/4 lengths clear of Champagne d’Oro, last year’s Test winner who finished third. Irish Gypsy and Wild News, who engaged Tar Heel Mom briefly early, completed the order of finish.

It was the 11th win from 28 career starts for Tar Heel Mom. She is now 3 for 4 at Saratoga with her only loss coming in the Grade 1 Ballerina in 2009 when she bled.

"She loves the racetrack," trainer Stanley Hough said.

Tar Heel Mom won for the fourth time from seven starts this year, or since returning from surgery to repair a condylar fracture in a hind ankle suffered in the early summer of 2010. In her two most recent starts, Tar Heel Mom was beaten a nose in the $250,000 My Juliet at Parx - where she was conceding the winner 10 pounds - and second beaten 2 1/2 lengths in the Sweet and Sassy at Delaware, a race from which an endoscopic examination showed a trace of blood, Hough said.

WATCH REPLAY: Honorable Miss Handicap

Sunday, Tar Heel Mom, under Alex Solis, was back on her game, opening up a one-length advantage after dueling with Wild News through an opening quarter in 22.40 seconds. Tar Heel Mom ran a half-mile in 45.24 seconds, five furlongs in 57.26, and covered the six furlongs in 1:10.42. She returned $5.70 as the favorite.

"She’d been training really good in the morning, real relaxed," Solis said. "Today she sat in the gate. As soon as she saw the doors open she was half a length in front. I had to make sure I had nice hold of her. At the top of the stretch I asked her a little bit and she responded nice. I tapped her a couple of times and she finished strong."

While the Honorable Miss is viewed as a prep for the Grade 1 Ballerina, Hough said he wasn’t sure he wanted to point Tar Heel Mom for that seven-furlong race. Though Tar Heel Mom did win a maiden race going seven furlongs here in 2008, Hough views her more as a six-furlong horse.

"I’d like to keep her three-quarters if I could," said Hough, who trains the mare for Alex Rankin. "We’ll have to see [about the Ballerina], maybe."

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