The Craig Family Trust's homebred SIDNEY'S CANDY (Candy Ride [Arg]) loomed as the controlling speed in Saturday's $150,000 San Felipe S. (G2) at Santa Anita, and the John Sadler trainee capitalized on that advantage to lead throughout in his two-turn debut. With regular rider Joe Talamo aboard, the talented chestnut kicked away from his pursuers turning for home and safely held off the closing Interactif (Broken Vow) by a half-length at the wire.
Sidney's Candy was coming off a wire-to-wire romp in the seven-furlong San Vicente S. (G2), where he proved to be the speed-of-the-speed. Stretching out to 1 1/16 miles for the first time on Saturday, he showed the ability to relax on the front end.
Sidney's Candy got away with moderate fractions of :24 1/5, :48 2/5 and 1:13 2/5. American Lion (Tiznow), on the muscle with the addition of blinkers, soon tugged his way into a tracking second. Multiple Grade 3 turf hero Interactif settled in third in his synthetic debut, while the hitherto unbeaten Caracortado (Cat Dreams), winner of the Robert B. Lewis S. (G2) at this track and trip last out, was reserved in fourth.
When Talamo set Sidney's Candy down in earnest swinging into the stretch, he went into high gear and put the race away. He reached the mile mark in 1:36 1/5 and never relented en route to a final time of 1:42 1/5. Dispatched as the co-second choice at 7-2, Sidney's Candy rewarded his supporters with mutuels of $9.60, $5.20 and $3.20 and keyed the $1 exotics -- $29.20 (exacta), $80.40 (trifecta) and $254.40 (5-2-7-4 superfecta).
"I talked to John (Sadler) this morning and the plan was to get to the lead, relax and kick when they came to him," Talamo said. "For him to go from a seven-eighths sprint to a mile and a sixteenth and relax like that is amazing. We knew last summer he was a quality horse, and the way he did this today was so impressive. He has the demeanor of an older horse."
"He relaxed on the lead good," Sadler said. "When I saw those splits, I was pretty confident. That's kind of the plan (to stay for the Santa Anita Derby [G1] on April 3). We'll see how he comes out of it. We always take it on a race by race basis."
Interactif was the only rival to get close to the winner. The 7-5 favorite Caracortado unleashed his trademark burst to draw alongside Interactif in the stretch, but Interactif pulled away from the California-bred gelding inside the final furlong. Steadily reducing Sidney's Candy's margin, Interactif gave game chase in a creditable runner-up effort. The 6-1 shot gave back $6.60 and $3.20.
"The horse on the lead (Sidney's Candy) was just going too slow," said Rafael Bejarano, who rode Interactif. "I thought that No. 4 (American Lion) might put a little more pressure on him. My horse made a really good move at the three-eighths pole. I thought I was going to catch the leader because my horse showed a real good turn of foot. But we just couldn't catch the winner because he had gone so slow earlier."
"I thought (Interactif) finished up rather well, off of soft fractions," Mike McCarthy, assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher, said. "I'm very pleased with the way he ran, the first time on synthetic. We'll see how he comes out of this (when asked about the Santa Anita Derby). We'll see what happens."
Caracortado reported home another 1 1/2 lengths adrift in third, paying $2.40.
"I thought he ran well," Caracortado's jockey, Paul Atkinson, said. "He tried hard. I can't fault him at all. But things wound up a little different today than what we had anticipated. They went a little bit slow early, so I had to pick it up in hopes the leader didn't steal it on us. It cost me to ride him a little bit differently.
"Before, I would have still been sitting on him at the quarter-pole, make one run and he's always had always that really quick explosion. Today, I let him inch up there a little bit more, and maybe that took away from his explosiveness late. He felt like he kicked on and exploded. But it wasn't quite enough. I can't complain. The race didn't set up for us, but he ran great."
American Lion weakened to fourth, followed by the maiden Stephen's Got Hope (Stephen Got Even); Sadler's other entrant, Dave in Dixie (Dixie Union); and Erbeia (Pulpit).
"Joel (Rosario) said that he (Dave in Dixie) was slipping behind," Sadler reported. "He wasn't handling the going, so we've got to check him out and figure out what happened. The pace didn't help him, clearly."
Sidney's Candy now sports a mark of 5-3-1-0 with a bankroll of $223,560. After just missing by a head in his debut at Del Mar in July, he came back to break his maiden by four lengths, setting a new track record of 1:02.71 for 5 1/2 furlongs on Del Mar's Polytrack. Sidney's Candy was sidelined by sore shins for four months. When he returned at Santa Anita in a December 30 allowance, he got off to a poor start and wound up fourth. He took a big step forward next time out in the San Vicente, roaring to a 4 1/4-length decision.
The Kentucky-bred was produced by the Storm Cat mare Fair Exchange, and he has an unnamed yearling full brother. Fair Exchange is the only foal from multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Exchange (Explodent), who captured such major events as the Matriarch S. (G1), Santa Barbara H. (G1), Santa Ana H. (G1), La Canada S. (G2), El Encino S. (G2), Orchid H. (G2) and Chula Vista H. (G2). This is the family of Australian Group 1 victor Blue Murder (Bluebird) and a pair of Canadian champions in Steady Growth (Briartic) and Kingsbridge (Icecapade).