Twirling Candy is all alone at the finish of the Strub.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Twirling Candy is all alone at the finish of the Strub.
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Twirling Candy Stomps Strub Rivals

Jenny Craig's 4-year-old colt looks like a standout for the Santa Anita Handicap.

Looking like a standout for next month's Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), heavily favored Twirling Candy  simply overpowered his rivals in winning the $200,000 Strub Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Feb. 5 (VIDEO).

Second behind a fast pace set by Indian Firewater, Twirling Candy took the lead rounding the final turn and bounded home by 4 1/2 lengths while completing the 1 1/8-mile distance in a superb time of 1:46.53, three ticks off the track mark of 1:45 4/5 established by Star Spangled in 1979. Seven 4-year-olds contested the Strub.

Twirling Candy, a son of Candy Ride , has already wiped Spectacular Bid's seven-furlong track mark off the Santa Anita books when he clocked a 1:19.70 in the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) on opening day Dec. 26. Off his effort in the Strub, in which jockey Joel Rosario never cocked his stick, The Bid's 1 1/4-mile dirt record of 1:57 4/5 in winning the Strub (then contested at 10 furlongs) in 1980 may also be in danger of falling in the March 5 Big 'Cap.

The Strub Stakes record of 1:45.65 was set by Monterey Jazz over the synthetic track in 2008.

Twirling Candy's win capped a big day for trainer John Sadler and Rosario, who won the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) earlier on the card with Jerry and Ann Moss' Zazu. The Strub victory was the third on the day for Rosario.

A five-time winner in six starts, Jenny Craig's burly dark bay homebred colt's only loss came in a fourth-place effort in last fall's Goodwood Stakes (gr. I), a race that convinced Sadler not to pursue the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). 

“He’s such a nice horse," Sadler said. "My job is just to be a good steward and take good care of him, because he’s a natural runner. There was no concern (going from seven furlongs to a mile and an eighth). My only concern is that I do a good job, because I really feel this is the best horse in the country.

"I beat up myself a few times for the time he got beat, maybe he wasn’t quite his best that day … But I just think if I do the right moves, he’s just a really top horse. He looked really comfortable today. He looked really non-stressed in the winner’s circle and that’s really key for him.”

Twirling Candy was a little anxious early as he prompted a quick pace from Indian Firewater, who traveled :23.44 for the opening quarter-mile, :46.53 for the half and 1:09.95 for six furlongs. Never far off the leader, Twirling Candy vied between his Bob Baffert-trained rivals, Indian Firewater and Tweebster, early on the turn before taking over near the quarter-pole.

Angled to the inside for the stretch run, he kicked clear and after opening a 2 1/2-length gap at the eighth pole, it was only a matter of the official margin while he finished under a tight hold.

"It was tough to get my horse to relax for a little bit," Rosario said. "Going to the half-mile pole he relaxed really nice for me, which is what I wanted, and I just followed the horse on the lead.”

Tweebster, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, was second best by 2 1/2 lengths over Make Music for Me, who nosed Indian Firewater for third with Chantal Sutherland aboard for the first time. Oilisblackgold, Honour the Deputy and Do It All completed the order.

This was the second graded stakes win for Twirling Candy, who captured the Del Mar Derby (gr. II) on grass last summer by 3 1/4 lengths. Out of the Chester House mare House of Danzing, Twirling Candy earned $120,000 for the Strub victory and extended his lifetime earnings to $579,900.

Under co-top weight of 123 pounds, the 1-2 favorite paid $3, $2.40 and $2.10. Tweebster,second to Indian Firewater in the San Fernando Stakes, the second leg in the Strub series last month, returned $3.60 and $2.80. Make Music for Me, improving off a seventh in the San Fernando, was $5.60 to show.

Paris Vegas scratched.