03/20/2008 12:00AM

Sugar Swirl going for stakes sweep


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Sugar Swirl will go for the hat trick when she seeks her third graded stakes win of the meet in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 Shirley Jones Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

Sugar Swirl was a popular and dominant winner of the Grade 3 First Lady and Hurricane Bertie handicaps earlier this winter, and she figures to again be the overwhelming favorite despite her 124-pound impost in the seven-furlong Shirley Jones. Sugar Swirl will meet six other older fillies and mares, including the Grade 1-placed pair of Shaggy Mane and Baroness Thatcher along with Grade 3 winner Lady Marlboro.

Sugar Swirl began her current three-race win streak with trainer Bobby Frankel by capturing Churchill Downs's Very Subtle Stakes in her 2007 finale. She was then sent to trainer Bryan Lynch's barn to point for the series of three graded sprint stakes for fillies and mares at Gulfstream. The series culminates with the Shirley Jones. Thus far, Sugar Swirl couldn't have been more impressive, capturing the six-furlong First Lady by 2 1/2 lengths and the seven-furlong Hurricane Bertie by nearly nine lengths.

"Obviously, you never expect to win three graded stakes at the same meet, but you always hope," Lynch said. "My biggest concern this time is the weight. She's carrying a lot of weight and giving a lot of weight to some very good horses, including a very fast filly like Shaggy Mane. Hopefully, something goes with her. Fortunately, we drew ideally on the outside, and she's going into this race at her best."

Javier Castellano will also look to complete a personal hat trick of his own, as he was aboard Sugar Swirl for her two earlier graded stakes wins this winter.

Shaggy Mane will return to the scene of her career-best performance, a 7 3/4-length victory in the 2007 Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint for which she earned a 109 Beyer Speed Figure. Runner-up in Calder's Grade 1 Princess Rooney Handicap in July, Shaggy Mane was transferred to trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.'s barn at Palm Meadows shortly after her fifth-place finish in defense of her Sunshine Millions title at Santa Anita on Jan. 26.

Baroness Thatcher comes off a disappointing fourth-place finish as the 1-2 favorite in a second-level allowance race on Feb. 27.