The 74th running of the Grade I $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap run over a mile and a quarter on the main track will showcase a superstar in the making and likely one of the shortest priced favorites in Big ‘Cap history, as Twirling Candy looks to make it seven wins in eight starts to begin his career.
“I really feel this is the best horse in the country,” said trainer John Sadler after his four and a quarter length win in the Grade II Strub Stakes on February 5. “I don’t want to make any mistakes because he’s that good.”
(Click here to watch my coverage of Twirling Candy’s romp in the Strub)
The four-year-old son of Candy Ride’s other notable victories came in the Grade I Malibu at seven furlongs on opening day and with a three and a quarter length score going a mile and an eighth on turf in the Grade II Del Mar Derby last summer.
Another up and coming superstar, jockey Joel Rosario, will be in the irons once again. He has found the winner’s circle in all five previous rides aboard Twirling Candy, who drew post No. 5 and was assigned the high weight of 122 pounds. He will carry between 4-10 pounds more than each of his rivals.
Leading trainer Bob Baffert, who won the race last year with Misremembered, will take four shots at playing the spoiler, as he sends Tweebster, Spurrier and a pair of Dudes.
Below is the complete field for Saturday's race, including post position, morning line and a brief comment.
PP Horse (Morning Line Odds) Comment
1. Soul Candy (30-1) First try on dirt after three wins on turf and one on synthetic.
2. Spurrier (15-1) A trio of second place finishes in Gr. II’s are career highlights.
3. Gladding (6-1) The “other” Sadler has won two straight and ensures an honest pace.
4. Pode Ir (50-1) Off the board in all three tries against graded stakes company
5. Twirling Candy (4-5) Only concern is the inability to relax that he showed last year.
6. Setsuko (30-1) Another with just one win in what’s been a disappointing career.
7. Quindici Man (30-1) Last four wins have come at Fairplex, Zia, Fresno and Turf Paradise.
8. First Dude (5-1) Still eligible for first-level allowance in his debut for Baffert.
9. Tweebster (15-1) No match for Candy last time, but in the money in 11-of-12.
10. Aggie Engineer (6-1) Dull effort in Gr. II last time after three straight impressive wins.
11. Game On Dude (15-1) Three wins have come as big favorite against weaker.
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