Caramel Swirl‘s two prior graded stakes attempts had been disappointing efforts, including an odds-on loss in the Aug. 27 Charles Town Oaks (G3). However, the Godolphin homebred relished the return to Keeneland, the site of her blowout maiden win, on Saturday when she won a head-bob over longshot Joy’s Rocket in the $250,000 Raven Run S. (G2).
The 3-1 third choice in a field of 11 three-year-old fillies, Caramel Swirl rated in seventh through the opening half-mile, made a five-wide bid turning for home, and won a stretch duel with Joy’s Rocket under the guidance of Junior Alvarado.
Trained by Bill Mott, Caramel Swirl covered seven furlongs over a fast track in 1:23.42 and returned $8.60.
Joy’s Rocket has two lengths on Cilla, who was four lengths clear of Shalimar Gardens. Souper Sensational, 5-2 favorite Obligatory, Miss Speedy, Strong Silent, Minute Waltz, Someone Said So, and Zainalarab completed the order of finish.
Runner-up in both starts at two, including to eventual multiple Grade 1 winner Malathaat in her debut, Caramel Swirl placed in her first two starts of the season at Gulfstream last winter before romping by 10 1/4 lengths over the Raven Run track and distance in April.
Seventh to Obligatory in her stakes debut, the April 30 Eight Belles (G2) at Churchill Downs, Caramel Swirl rebounded with a three-length allowance win at Saratoga, but could only finish fourth in the Charles Town Oaks, a seven-furlong test contested around two turns. Her record now stands at 9-3-3-1, $317,300.
The Kentucky-bred Caramel Swirl is by Union Rags and out of Caramel Snap, a Smart Strike half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Frosted and Grade 3 heroine Indulgent. Caramel Swirl’s second dam, Grade 2 winner Fast Cookie, is herself a Deputy Minister half-sister to 2008 champion juvenile colt Midshipman.
Closers fared best in the $150,000 Perryville S. for three-year-olds, with He’smyhoneybadger winning a three-way photo over 23-1 longshot Ram and 17-10 favorite Pipeline to earn his first stakes win for owner Steve Landers and trainer Brad Cox.
Ridden by Florent Geroux, He’smyhoneybadger won by a neck and covered seven furlongs in 1:23.75. The 6-1 fourth choice in a field of nine, he returned $14.60.
A maiden winner on April 10 at Oaklawn in his fourth career start, He’smyhoneybadger added a pair of allowance wins over the summer before finishing second in his stakes debut, the Harrods Creek S., at Churchill Downs on Sept. 25.
“It looked like he ran a nice race last time at Churchill off the pace when he placed second, so that was kind of the same idea today, to be behind the speed,” Geroux said. “This horse is not really quick early on, so we just found a nice rhythm, got the speed in the turn, and he showed a lot of grit and determination down the lane.”
Bred in Kentucky by Richard Forbush, He’smyhoneybadger is by Daredevil and out of Majestic Miss, by Majestic Warrior. His record now stands at 10-4-3-1, $321,824.