Prohibitive choice Sidney's Candy , given an easy time of it on the front end in his first start for new trainer Todd Pletcher, held his rivals at bay for a facile win in the $150,000 Fourstardave Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) on the Saratoga turf July 31.
Now owned by WinStar Farm and the Rubio B. Stable, Sidney's Candy spurted away in the lane after a crack of the whip from jockey John Velazquez to register a 1 1/4-length tally in his Saratoga debut. The 4-year-old son of Candy Ride out of the Storm Cat mare Fair Exchange completed the 1 1/16-mile trip in 1:43.25 over a firm inner turf course.
Sidney's Candy went over the $1 million mark in career earnings with his first victory in three starts in 2011. Bred in Kentucky by Jenny Craig and her late husband Sid, Sidney's Candy previously raced in Southern California for the Craig Family Trust and trainer John Sadler.
“He relaxed beautifully and Johnny said he was just going to go as fast as whoever was going to make him go," Pletcher said. "It’s probably a little softer ground than he’s used to running on in California, so that was sort of the question mark. Johnny said it is a little soft out there still, even though it’s upgraded to firm today."
With the first test for Sidney's Candy out of the way, Pletcher said he would look to the seven-furlong Forego Stakes (gr. I) or the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) at 1 1/8 miles next. Both main track events are Sept. 3 at Saratoga.
Velazquez sent Sidney's Candy to the front and slowed the pace to a crawl as Moryba, Beau Choix, and Turallure tracked the 1-5 favorite through quarter-mile fractions of :25.83, :50.49, and 1:14.35.
Sidney's Candy appeared to bobble on the final turn as the Brazilian-bred Moryba turned up the heat for Rajiv Maragh. Sidney's Candy recovered quickly, however, and responded to urging to take command in the lane while winning comfortably.
"When we got to the first turn, I put my hands down and he rated himself in the slow pace," Velazquez said. "I waited for them to come at us at the quarter pole before I asked him to do anything. I was a little cautious. As soon as I asked him, he responded and it worked out well for us.”
Moryba was second by a half-length over Beau Choix, ridden by Ramon Dominguez.
Sidney's Candy earned his second win on grass following his 5 1/2-length triumph at Del Mar last summer in the La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT). Last year's Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner has proven his versatility on any surface and was under consideration for the Whitney Invitational (gr. I) Aug. 6 for his return. Pletcher opted for the Fourstardave when Sidney's Candy breezed five furlongs in :57 3/5 over the Saratoga turf training track July 24.
"I thought it was a very professional effort," Pletcher said. "Such a versatile horse, he can do a little bit of everything, so I think all of our options are still open. He had to quicken on softer ground than he’s used to, and he quickened really well."
The winner ran his career mark to 7-4-0 in 14 races with earnings of $1,043,560 and paid $2.60, $2.50, $2.10.
"I was very pleased with the way he finished up," said Elliott Walden, president and CEO of WinStar Farm. "The pace scenario was a little unusual, especially for a horse that comes from California and wants to run in 22 and change, 45. I was a little apprehensive about him going that slowly, but he finished up nicely, which was exactly what we wanted.”
Moryba, a group I winner in Brazil before transferring to Bill Mott for the 2011 season, returned $6.60 and $4.90. He completed a $19.80 exacta. Beau Choix, an overnight stakes winner on the Belmont Park turf earlier this month for trainer Barclay Tagg, paid $4.10 to show.
Second choice Blues Street, also saddled by Pletcher, finished fourth. He was followed by Turallure, Paris Vegas, and Voodoo Swinge.