02/12/2010 1:00AM

Tar Heel Mom looks for graded victory

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Tar Heel Mom, whose quest for her first graded stakes win was foiled in the final strides of the Grade 3 Sugar Swirl earlier in the meet, will get a second opportunity Saturday, when she takes on nine other older fillies and mares in the Grade 3, $125,000 Hurricane Bertie at Gulfstream Park.

Tar Heel Mom closed her 2009 campaign with a pair of easy victories in overnight stakes in New York and New Jersey. She did the lion's share of the work on the front end of the Sugar Swirl, a six-furlong race, but was beaten a head on the money by Pretty Prolific and Warbling over a sloppy track. Both rivals will return for the Hurricane Bertie.

"I thought she ran very well last time, although obviously, when you get that close, it's disappointing if you don't get the win," said Stanley Hough, who trains Tar Heel Mom for owner Alex Rankin. "When she went to the rail, which I thought was kind of dead that day, it might have cost her the difference at the end."

Hough was delighted that Tar Heel Mom drew the outside post in the Hurricane Bertie.

"I like her being outside," said Hough. "She's got good speed and, hopefully, can lay just off the pace. That's her best style. On a good day she's very tough. Hopefully, Saturday will be a good day for her."

Pretty Prolific earned her first graded victory in the Sugar Swirl, her best performance since she finished second in last summer at Saratoga. She will pick up six pounds and carry high weight of 122 pounds under the allowance conditions of the Hurricane Bertie.

The Sugar Swirl marked the stakes debut for Warbling, a daughter of Unbridled's Song who had won her only two previous starts in Kentucky. She overcame a slow start and outfinished Tar Heel Mom by a nose for second money and has since returned with a pair of bullet half-mile works at Palm Meadows.

A couple of West Coast invaders, Kays and Jays and Pinkarella ship east after closing their 3-year-old campaigns by finishing fifth and eighth in Santa Anita's .

Kays and Jays contested the pace to midstretch before weakening in the La Brea, a seven-furlong race. She returns to south Florida for the first time since finishing a game second in Calder's in July.

Pinkarella had an unlucky trip in the La Brea, her second Grade 1 start in five career races. The Hurricane Bertie will be her first start on dirt.