04/07/2006 11:00PM

Spun Sugar outgames Happy Ticket

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Sunny Taylor/Coady Photography
Spun Sugar wins the Apple Blossom Handicap on Saturday at Oaklawn Park.

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - Spun Sugar showed she will be a major player in the filly and mare division this year when she came back along the inside to win a photo over Happy Ticket and capture her first Grade 1 in the $500,000 at Oaklawn Park on Saturday.

Happy Ticket finished second by a neck, while it was six and a half lengths back in third to La Reason. The order of finish was completed by Platinum Ballet, Star Parade and Hollywood Story.

Spun Sugar ($8.60) broke sharply and went to the lead, and held a short advantage into the first turn as she ran the opening quarter in 23.79 seconds. Star Parade proceeded to take the lead down the backside, while Spun Sugar held her position along the rail through a half-mile in 47.62.

Midway on the turn, Spun Sugar took the lead again and held a narrow advantage at the quarter pole. In the stretch, Spun Sugar battled with Happy Ticket and after being headed near the eighth pole came back. The winner covered the mile and a sixteenth over a fast track in 1:42.59.

"I think it was a legit field and I think this filly proved herself as a Grade 1horse," said Mike Luzzi, who rode Spun Sugar for the first time Saturday. "She ran against some tough company last year, you have to admit that, and put it together today."

Spun Sugar is trained by Todd Pletcher.

Happy Ticket, who was the 6-5 favorite and 119-pound highweight, drifted late in the Apple Blossom. She settled off the pace down the backside, moved outside of horses at the half-mile pole, advanced on the final turn, and dueled through the stretch with Spun Sugar.

"Things couldn't have developed any better for my filly," said Robby Albarado, who rode Happy Ticket. "I had two horses up ahead of us down the backside and was sitting in the ideal spot just waiting to see when to ask my filly for her best. I came around [Star Parade] at the quarter pole and she kicked it in. We got ahead at one point, but just got outfinished at the wire."

Spun Sugar, who carried 116, rose to prominence last year at 3, when she won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan at Pimlico Race Course. She went on to finish second in both the Mother Goose and the Alabama. Spun Sugar came into the Apple Blossom off a four and a quarter length win in an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park in her first start since the Alabama in August.

Spun Sugar earned $300,000 for the win, which was her fifth in nine career starts. She has now earned $764,171. Spun Sugar is a 4-year-old daughter of Awesome Again, and she races for Stronach Stables. She was bred by Adena Springs.

The Apple Blossom shared a card with the Grade 2, $500,000 Oaklawn Handicap won by Buzzards Bay ($6.60). Attendance on track was 29,841, and handle on the 12-race card from all sources was $6,856,818.