Triple Crown nominee Holy Candy entered Friday's 4TH race at Santa Anita as arguably the best thrice-raced maiden in North America, and the John Sadler colt finally shed that status with a 3 1/2-length decision. Runner-up to the likes of Empire Way, Castaway and Stirred Up as the favorite in his three career starts, the 1-2 shot is now cleared to pursue the Kentucky Derby.

Holy Candy is owned by breeder Craig Stables in partnership with Donkey Island Racing, a group which is managed by Alex Solis Jr. and comprises New Orleans Saints All Pro quarterback Drew Brees and others.

"We've thought all along he was our best three-year-old," Sadler said, "and it was nice to see him finish and gallop out the way he did today.

"In his last couple of races, things have kind of worked against us. We caught a sealed track a couple races back, and we've just felt that he needs to be able to make a quarter-mile run.

"We'll look at some graded stakes, including the Santa Anita Derby (Grade 1 on April 7)," Sadler said. "We're definitely thinking about getting the (graded) earnings he'd need to run in the Kentucky Derby." 

On Friday, Holy Candy raced off the pace set by Eaton Hall through fractions of :24 3/5 and :48 3/5, and was as far as six lengths back at the six-furlong mark in 1:11 4/5. Although on the move turning for home, he was still three lengths adrift of the free-wheeling front runner in midstretch.

But inside the final furlong, Holy Candy kicked into gear for new rider Joel Rosario and surged past Eaton Hall. Despite lugging in greenly, he pulled away to complete the mile in 1:35 4/5 on the fast track. The popular winner, who continued to gallop out robustly, returned $3, $2.10 and $2.10.

Holy Candy has now bankrolled $65,000 from his 4-1-3-0 line. In his November 13 debut at Hollywood Park, the gray missed by just a half-length to Empire Way, the eventual second-place finisher in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes.

The son of Candy Ride reappeared in a January 21 maiden at Santa Anita, where he couldn't catch a loose-on-the-lead Castaway, the subsequent winner of the first division of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes for Bob Baffert. Last time out on March 3, Holy Candy was run down by Baffert's Stirred Up, but fought back to go down by just a neck. Stirred Up could earn his way into the Kentucky Derby in Sunday's Grade 3 Sunland Derby.