For the third time in as many tries, Sidney's Candy, under jockey Joe Talamo, was able to control the pace and get a clear lead, never looking back while winning the Grade 1, $750K Santa Anita Derby by over four lengths.
After winning at seven furlongs in the Grade 2 San Vicente and at a mile and a sixteenth in the Grade 2 San Felipe earlier in the meet, Sidney showed the ability to carry his speed over a mile and an eighth. The mile and a quarter of the Kentucky Derby no longer seems to be an issue for the son of Candy Ride.
“He actually stumbled a tad at the start, but he is such an unbelievable animal," said Talamo.
The 20-year-old will head to Churchill Downs for the second year in a row with a legitimate chance at winning the Derby. Last year, he was to ride morning line favorite I Want Revenge, but the horse was scratched on the morning of the race.
"To have a horse in the Kentucky Derby, any kind of horse, is a tremendous feat," said Talamo. "I feel very honored and blessed just to make it back this year, after what happened last year."
Sidney's Candy is campaigned by the meet's leading trainer, John Sadler, whose only Kentucky Derby starter came in 1993 with Corby who ran sixth. Candy will head to Kentucky having been virtually untested in the lane in all four career wins, something that might work against him if he finds himself in a battle on the first Saturday in May.
“He had more in the tank today than last time," said Sadler. "The way he trained up so good and strong, he’s had a perfect week. I was expecting a big race."
Owned by the Craig Family Trust, Sidney's Candy is named after the late Sid Craig. His wife, Jenny, is best known as a successful diet guru.
Lookin at Lucky, who went off as the odds-on favorite, had a much-troubled trip for the third time in his last four races under jockey Garrett Gomez, before regrouping to run on for third.
"I was traveling good, and the next thing I knew, Victor Espinoza (on Who's Up) came down on top of me and took me into the fence," said Gomez, who got into a physical altercation with Espinoza after the race. "You could hear him (say), ‘I told you I’d get you back.’ That’s why I went after him at the scales because I knew what it was about."
To nobody's surprise, Espinoza had a much different recollection of how the race unfolded.
"Garrett was in the wrong spot to begin with, and I tried to help him as much as I could even though my horse was getting tired," said Espinoza, who was potentially upset for losing the mount on trainer Bob Baffert's Misremembered before the Santa Anita Handicap last month. "For me, it's more important to be safe on the track for the jockeys and the horses."
Baffert was understandably frustrated. In Lucky's previous race at Santa Anita, he finished second by a head in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile after breaking from post 13 and going extremely wide through both turns. In his first start of 2010 in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn three weeks ago, he clipped heels and almost went down on the backstretch before rallying to win by a head.
"His ride was horrendous,” Baffert said in the heat of the moment. “He took him back, and he was fighting him. I cannot believe he rode him that way. It’s ridiculous.”
Baffert had said earlier in the week that a 1-2-3 finish for Lookin at Lucky and a good run through the stretch was what he wanted to see in order to feel confident to send the horse to Kentucky next.
Talk of a rider change has surfaced, however Baffert's other main rider, Martin Garcia, is the normal jock for his other Derby hopeful, Conveyance. Additionally, as more of a speed rider, Garcia is better suited for Conveyance, while Gomez and his more patient riding tactics suit Lucky.
It's no accident that Gomez has risen to be one of the elite jockeys in the world, so it's no surprise we might have seen a foreshadowing of his motivation for redemption two races later in the Grade 2, $150K Portrero Grande. Riding Ventana for the same connections as Lucky, Gomez battled back on the inside to literally carry the colt to the wire, winning by a nostril after it seemed he was done at the top of the stretch.
When the dust settles, as long as Lucky comes out of the race unscathed, Gomez will be aboard in Kentucky, and backers will get a much more appealing price to wager on when the gates open at Churchill.
Setsuko, who finished second, and Caracortado, who ran on for fourth after also running into trouble behind Lucky, are unlikely to have enough graded stakes earnings to qualify for a spot in the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby.
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