- Road to the Kentucky Derby
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Sidney's Candy, Lucky in good shape after Santa Anita Derby
From Sunday's Santa Anita notes by Ed Golden:
It was all quiet on the Western front Sunday morning after the most eventful Santa Anita Derby (G1) in recent memory Saturday. It was on to the Kentucky Derby (G1) for front-running winner SIDNEY'S CANDY (Candy Ride [Arg]), and ditto for third-place finisher LOOKIN AT LUCKY (Smart Strike), the 4-5 favorite who, after troubled trips in three of his last four races, perhaps should be called Lookin at Unlucky.
On a pleasantly cool, intermittently sunny Easter morning, tempers and rhetoric had subsided to the norm less than 24 hours after blows both verbal and physical were hurled following the West Coast's premier stepping stone to the Run for the Roses on May 1.
An incident midway on the second turn in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby sparked the outbursts. Lookin at Lucky, ridden by Garrett Gomez, "steadied and was shuffled back midway on that turn" when WHO'S UP (Graeme Hall), running in second at the time under Victor Espinoza, "angled to the rail." Gomez lost whatever chance he had of winning, but rallied to finish third, beaten six lengths by Sidney's Candy and 1 1/2 lengths by SETSUKO (Pleasantly Perfect), who closed from 10th and last to capture second.
Jill Baffert, wife of Bob Baffert, trainer of Lookin at Lucky, verbally took Espinoza to task outside the jockeys' room after the race, but Espinoza said Sunday morning that apologies had been exchanged Saturday night.
Directly after the running of the race, the stewards conducted an inquiry, but took no immediate action. Not so for Gomez, who confronted Espinoza weighing in at the scales, raining at least one punch on Espinoza. It made good theater on ESPN's SportsCenter Saturday night, and in Sunday's print publications, but common sense prevailed Sunday and it was back to the business at hand.
The California Horse Racing Board of stewards held a hearing on the incident Sunday morning before the races. Frank Alvarado, rider of fifth-place finisher SKIPSHOT (Skip Away), was absolved of any wrongdoing; Espinoza received a three-day suspension starting next Sunday; and Gomez was fined $750 for his actions after the race, according to steward Tom Ward.
"Sidney's Candy came back good," said John Sadler, on his way to his second straight Santa Anita training title. Sadler would have his second starter in the Run for the Roses with the son of Candy Ride. "We don't have a departure date yet. We'll play it by ear, but we're not going for at least a week."
The Derby would be the first race for Sidney's Candy on traditional dirt after six starts on synthetics.
"I don't think he's going to have a problem," Sadler said. "He's a good horse."
"Lookin at Lucky looks fantastic today," said Baffert, who is seeking his fourth Derby win. "He's happy, so that's good. He leaves on the 12th (for Churchill Downs) and yeah, Gomez will ride him back.
"Garrett came by the barn this morning and we talked things over. I didn't like where the horse was the first 100 yards, but I should have told Garrett exactly what to do. I just left it up to him and I messed it up.
"In the Rebel ([G2] at Oaklawn Park on March 13), he was really knocked out after the race. But this is the best the horse has ever come out of a race. He was ice cold and he was bouncing.
"We learned a lot about the horse that will really help his chances in the Derby," Baffert added. "We got beat by a very nice horse (in Sidney's Candy), and you can't make any mistakes against a horse like that. We're not the favorite (for the Derby) anymore. We've dropped down a few notches, but what the hell. California three-year-olds are very good this year. They're tough."
"If we can go, I want to go," said Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella of Setsuko, who picked up $150,000 for finishing second, giving him $180,000 in graded earnings, the final criterion in determining the 20 horses that will start in the Kentucky Derby.
"He came out of the race great. Now, it just depends on if he gets to do it or not."
Mike Machowsky, trainer of CARACORTADO (Cat Dreams), who ran fourth after steadying in the incident with Lookin at Lucky and Who's Up, is taking a wait-and-see approach to the Kentucky Derby.
"We have no plans right now," Machowsky said. "We'll see how it plays out. I wouldn't rule out the Derby, but he'd have to be kicking the barn down, and all that.
"I don't think anybody was going to beat Sidney's Candy. He looked very, very strong. Too bad there was all that rough riding."