A determined Skipshot collared the tiring Sidney's Candy just before the wire to upset the 1-5 favorite by a frantic head in the $196,000 Swaps Stakes (gr. II) at Hollywood Park July 17 (VIDEO).
Sidney's Candy, the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner making his first start since the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), slowed just enough in deep stretch to allow Skipshot, under all-out encouragement from jockey Joel Rosario, to get up in time in the 1 1/8-mile Swaps.
Skipshot, who produced a 4-1 upset of the prohibitive choice in a slow Cushion Track time of 1:49.94, earned his first stakes victory for owner Olympia Star and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Just four 3-year-olds contested the Swaps with the scratch of Twirling Candy , Sidney's Candy's entrymate who will instead run in the opening-day Oceanside Stakes on the grass at Del Mar July 21.
From the outset, Skipshot, breaking on the outside of Sidney's Candy, kept the pressure on the front-runner, who was ridden by Joe Talamo. Summer Movie and Alphie's Bet stalked the pacesetters.
Sidney's Candy and Skipshot staged their own little match race on the front end with Sidney's Candy maintaining a narrow advantage over Skipshot through fractions of :24.29, :48.78, and 1:12.82.
They continued as a team into upper stretch when Sidney's Candy surged a bit to lead by about 1 1/2 lengths nearing the furlong pole. But Skipshot came back under a strong left-handed stick and the gutty Skip Away ridgling would not be denied. Talamo frantically urged Sidney's Candy, who was down on the inside, in the final strides but in spite of an ultra-game effort they could not keep off Skipshot.
Rosario, who rode Skipshot for the first time, said he thought Sidney's Candy might be gone after he opened up the advantage in the stretch.
"I continued to ride hard all the way," he said. "If he beats me, fine. I thought we’d at least get second, but we beat him, so that’s good.”
Summer Movie, who stalked from third about two to three lengths behind the leaders while racing slightly off the rail for Martin Garcia, angled to the outside mid-stretch and finished well to be a half length behind Sidney's Candy. Alphie's Bet, who trailed throughout under Mike Smith, finished 2 1/2 lengths farther back.
Skipshot, who was second, beaten by a half length in the Affirmed Handicap (gr. III) in his last start June 19, picked up his first win since taking a one-mile allowance heat at Golden Gate Fields March 14. Skipshot jumped from that race into the Santa Anita Derby April 3, finishing fifth, nearly eight lengths behind Sidney's Candy. This was the third start for Skipshot after a brief freshening.
Dan Ward, assistant to Hollendorfer, saddled Skipshot with Hollendorfer in Illinois to oversee his horses on "Million Preview" day at Arlington Park. Ward noted that Skipshot, at 116 pounds, enjoyed a six-pound break from Sidney's Candy.
"The (Affirmed Handicap) really did him a lot of good," Ward said. "We were pretty confident today, but next time at equal weights we can’t be as confident."
Sidney's Candy showed the effects of his layoff since a rough 17th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby when he was spent early after pressing the pace from post 20 over a sloppy track. The son of Candy Ride won three consecutive graded stakes at Santa Anita to begin the year for trainer John Sadler.
“He was training so well up to this race," Talamo said. "I think that last little part just got him. He was coming off a decent layoff so I could see him maybe needing the race. You never know until you get them out in the afternoon. He’s still a great horse and he’s going to bounce back.”
With the victory, Skipshot improved to 4-1-1 in 10 starts and boosted his earnings to $213,030. The Swaps victory was worth $120,000.
The winner, a $120,000 Ocala Breeders' Sale purchase as a 2-year-old in March 2009, was bred in Kentucky by Summer Wind Farm. The chestnut is out of Heavenly Note, by Sunny's Halo.
Skipshot paid $10.20 and $2.60. Sidney's Candy returned $2.10. The exacta was $16.80. There was no show wagering.