Malibu Stakes (gr. I) winner Twirling Candy and Indian Firewater, who captured the San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) three weeks later, meet for the first time in the $200,000 Strub Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Feb. 5.
The Strub, for 4-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles on the main track, drew a field of eight. The final leg of Santa Anita's Strub series that began with the Dec. 26 Malibu goes as the ninth race. It is the last of three graded stakes on the Feb. 5 Santa Anita program with a probable post of 4:38 p.m. PST.
Once-beaten 4-year-old Twirling Candy skipped the San Fernando following his scintillating nose victory over Smiling Tiger in track-record time in the seven-furlong Malibu. Jenny Craig’s homebred son of Candy Ride , with five victories in six trips to the post, is expected to be the odds-on favorite in the Strub.
With regular rider Joel Rosario up, Twirling Candy worked seven furlongs Jan. 30 on Santa Anita’s main track in 1:25 in his most recent drill.
“He worked good,” said trainer John Sadler. “We’re all set for the Strub.”
After a fourth-place finish in Oak Tree’s Goodwood Stakes (gr. I) Oct. 2, Twirling Candy turned in a sensational effort on opening day at Santa Anita. He rallied at odds of 7-2 while completing the distance in 1:19.70 on an extremely fast track, erasing the record of 1:20 flat established by the great Spectacular Bid 30 years earlier.
The Strub often leads to the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), which is March 5, and Sadler is headed in that direction with Twirling Candy. He's trying to keep separate Craig’s two gifted sons of Candy Ride, who provided six straight wins climaxed by a track-record breaking performance in Del Mar’s $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I) in 2003 for Jenny and her late husband, Sid.
Sidney’s Candy, Craig's other top son of Candy Ride, is expected to race in the $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (gr. IT) on turf with Twirling Candy headed for the Big ’Cap on the same day, according to Sadler. He hopes that Twirling Candy can join the list of nine who have completed the Strub-Big ’Cap double, including Triple Crown winner Affirmed (1979) and Spectacular Bid the following year.
Twirling Candy began his career with four successive victories by a total of 17 lengths, including a 3 ¼-length score in last year’s Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) on turf even though he ducked out badly at the five-eighths pole. In his next start, the Goodwood, he was rank and a handful for jockey Mike Smith. After gaining the lead on the backside, Twirling Candy faded to fourth, 3 ½ lengths behind victorious Richard's Kid.
“He just wasn’t himself that day,” said Sadler, “and he was kind of crampy after the race.”
Twirling Candy will bring earnings of $459,900 into the Strub.
Leading trainer Bob Baffert will provide the primary opposition for Twirling Candy in the Strub with Indian Firewater and San Fernando runner-up Tweebster. Only a nose separated the two in the Jan. 15 race as Indian Firewater led the entire journey at 1 1/16 miles.
Smith will be back aboard Indian Firewater for partners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman. The son of Indian Charlie has compiled a record of 3-6-3 in 14 races while earning $257,120.
Tweebster, who will be rejoined by leading rider Rafael Bejarano, took eight races to break his maiden before embarking on a three-race winning streak that ended in the San Fernando. A roan son of Tapit purchased for $300,000 by Kaleem Shah, Tweebster has banked $151,760 from a 3-4-3 record in 11 starts.
Also exiting the San Fernando is Darley Stable's Do It All, who ran third in his stakes debut for trainer Eoin Harty, as well as Paris Vegas (fifth) and Make Music for Me (seventh).
$200,000 Strub Stakes (gr. II, Race 9, 4:38 p.m.), 4-Year-Olds, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Honour the Deputy (FL), G K Gomez, 118, J Hollendorfer
2. Indian Firewater (KY), M E Smith, 123, B Baffert
3. Twirling Candy (KY), J Rosario, 123, J W Sadler
4. Tweebster (KY), R Bejarano, 118, B Baffert
5. Paris Vegas (KY), B Blanc, 118, L Powell
6. Make Music for Me (KY), C Sutherland, 118, A Barba
7. Do It All (KY), P A Valenzuela, 118, E G Harty
8. Oilisblackgold (KY), V Espinoza, 118, C Dollase