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Countdown to the Cup: Twirling Dervish

We could be seeing the emergence of a superstar in Saturday's Goodwood Stakes.

We know what Twirling Candy  is capable of sprinting on synthetics and going two turns on grass, and now we should learn in Saturday’s Goodwood Stakes (gr. I) what he’s capable of going two turns on synthetics against older horses.

If the son of Candy Ride  passes this test, he likely will go into the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) as perhaps the most intriguing horse in what promises to be an exceptional field.

Intriguing in that we won’t know how he’ll handle the dirt, the mile and a quarter, and stiffer competition. What he will have going for him is the aura of a potential superstar just waiting to break out. Everything about this colt suggests he is something special. But first he’ll have to prove it against a tough, classy field of older horses in the Goodwood.

Even with the presence of grade I winners Awesome Gem and Richard's Kid  and grade I-placed Crowded House and Dakota Phone, his toughest challenge could come from Crown of Thorns, who has been waiting to go two turns for the first time since his impressive score in the Robert B. Lewis (gr. II) back in 2008.

Trainer John Sadler is expecting another big effort from Twirling Candy.

“He’s very special, very gifted,” Sadler said. “He might be one of the ones and we think the world of him. We’ll find out this weekend. I don’t want to look ahead and talk too much about the Breeders’ Cup until we get through this one, but the Classic is very much in the plan for him.”

As for his ability to get a mile and a quarter, Sadler said his distance capabilities are “limitless,” adding that his “father went a mile and quarter in record time and he is out of a Chester House mare. That’s a lot of stamina. Hopefully, we’ll see all his brilliance on Saturday.”

Sadler said he is not concerned about the incident in the Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT), in which he ducked out badly after turning into the backstretch. “He just gets a little bored,” Sadler said. “Going back to synthetic, the pace will be faster. That was the only time he’s ever done that, so I’m not worried about it.”

Blind Faith

Blind Luck looks up against it in Saturday’s Cotillion (gr. II), with only a four- or five-horse field expected, but win or lose, how about her connections flying her cross-country for the FIFTH time this year, to face a filly she beat a neck at equal weights in the Alabama and is now giving 10 pounds. If she should pull this off, her feat of flying East five times and winning five major stakes will be one of the great accomplishments in many years. Even if she gets beat, congrats to her owners and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer for being so ambitious with her all year.

All she can hope for is to have Havre de Grace, who trainer Tony Dutrow feels is as good as any 3-year-old filly in the country, and Awesome Maria go at each other early. If Bonnie Blue Flag, coming off three sprints, runs here instead of the Beldame, for which she also is entered, it would boost her chances either further.

In other items from the weekend:

-- On paper, Lookin At Lucky  should handle the Indiana Derby (gr. II) field, despite needing this race following an illness, but do we really have any idea how good Uareoutlaw is, making his U.S. debut coming off a group I score in Brazil? He certainly adds some intrigue to the race, as does the lightly raced St. Maximus Gato, a winner by nine lengths and 10 lengths in his last two starts at Calder. Several of the more familiar names are all in good form, so it could be a good test for the Preakness (gr. I) and Haskell (gr. I) winner.

-- WinStar and Bill Mott could have run Hold Me Back in Saturday’s much easier Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II), but opted to stay home for the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I). You never know when this son of Giant’s Causeway is going to put in a big race, especially going 1 ¼ miles, so keep him in mind in your exotic wagers.

-- If you think there were repercussions from Rachel Alexandra’s retirement before, imagine if Life At Ten, whom Rachel crushed in the Personal Ensign (gr. I), comes back and wins the Beldame. Even victories by Persistently, the Personal Ensign winner, and Queen Martha would make Rachel look better by boosting the quality of her last two starts. That would even apply, to a lesser degree, if Unrivaled Belle, who narrowly defeated Rachel in the La Troienne (gr. II), should win.

Speaking of Rachel’s retirement, some fairly reliable tidbits heard through the grapevine include Jess Jackson and Steve Asmussen knowing she would not race again as of a week or two ago, and that it was nagging foot problems that prompted her retirement. Another cited suspensory issues. See what happens when you are not forthright in announcing the retirement of a horse such as this.

It is hoped one of these, if true, will be made public in the next day or two to give closure to Rachel’s retirement.

While they are at it, how about arranging with Churchill Downs to parade her in front of the fans on the Saturday of the Breeders’ Cup.