12/23/2001 1:00AM

Sugar N Spice gets second shot at stakes

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MIAMI - Had Sugar N Spice kept a straight path through the stretch, she might have won last year's Chaposa Springs Handicap instead of finishing third, beaten about a length in the Grade 3 dash. On Saturday trainer Barry Croft gives the stretch-running Sugar N Spice another chance to win the $100,000 Chaposa Springs, a seven-furlong race for fillies and mares.

Sugar N Spice, who will turn 7 on New Year's Day, has been among the leaders of the local filly and mare sprint division for the past two years and is the sole reason Croft has remained at Calder over the past 3 1/2 years.

"I thought I'd bring her down here from Tampa for a few months when she was a 3-year-old and I haven't left yet," said Croft. "She's just gotten better and better each successive year."

Sugar N Spice won 3 of 8 starts and was off the board just once last year. Turning for home in the Chaposa Springs, she engaged 1-2 favorite Swept Away for the lead and appeared ready to pull away from her when she suddenly lugged in and bumped that rival, losing her momentum.

"She has a habit of jumping left when hit right-handed, and my rider nailed her twice and it probably cost her the race," Croft recalled. "She's a funny filly because sometimes she'll be in a spot where it looks like she can't lose and will finish third or fourth, and then she'll get in with some real tough ones and really rise to the occasion."

Sugar N Spice won the Goldarama Handicap with a strong last-to-first rally two starts back, but turned in a disappointing effort when she finished fifth four weeks later in the U Can Do It Handicap.

"She had some excuses last time," said Croft. "I've really cranked her up for this race because it's going to be her last start for a while. I plan to give her time off during the winter, and I expect her to run a really big race, especially if she gets some pace to shoot at."

New York invaders Gold Mover and Tugger were assigned high weight of 117 pounds for the Chaposa Springs, although trainer Todd Pletcher said he plans to keep Tugger in New York to run in the Affectionately Handicap.

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