Sidney's Candy at Churchill Downs.<br><a target="blank" href="">Order This Photo</a>

Sidney's Candy at Churchill Downs.
Order This Photo

Anne M. Eberhardt

Jenny Craig Seeks Sweet Encore

Weight-loss queen is back at the Kentucky Derby for the second consecutive year.

It made for a nice little story at the 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I): the famous widow, having lost her husband a year earlier, makes it to the Derby with a horse sired by one of the family’s best runners. The horse finishes a respectable fifth at odds of 10-1, and everyone goes home having taken part in a very good, but not great, tale.

However, for Jenny Craig, the queen of weight loss, the story is not over. Not by a longshot. Because Craig has a Derby contender for the second year in a row. It is another son of Candy Ride  bred by the family, and by all accounts, this one, Sidney's Candy, looks more talented than last year’s model, Chocolate Candy. Undefeated through Santa Anita’s program for 3-year-olds, Sidney’s Candy enters the Derby perfect in three starts this season—the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II), the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II), and the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), in which he defeated the likely Kentucky Derby favorite, Lookin At Lucky.

You could say Jenny Craig wasn’t expecting this second act of Derby action to occur so soon. Shortly after last year’s Run for the Roses, the Southern California-based Craig decided she would spend this spring in Paris, which is where she was ensconced as Sidney’s Candy, trained by John Sadler, tore through his competition this season. Although she enjoyed the whirlwind of events in Louisville a year ago and described the Derby experience as “very special,” Craig added, “Each time you go to the Derby, you say, “I don’t think I’ll do this again,’ and then you get a great horse and say, ‘How can you not?’ ”

So Craig made the journey home from France to Rancho Santa Fe a week before the Derby and will stay there long enough to pick out a hat and get to Kentucky. Not only that, but she is also a partner in the National Basketball Association’s Phoenix Suns, a team that made the playoffs this year.

“Talk about bad timing,” Craig said. “They’re in the playoffs, and where was I? In Paris. At least I had the NBA League Pass in Paris, so I could watch the games on the computer. After the Derby, I’m debating whether to go back to Paris or stay and go to the Suns games. They may send me back out of town if I’m better luck watching from afar.”

Craig and her late husband, Sidney, were partners in both the weight-loss business and the Thoroughbred world. They imported Candy Ride from his native Argentina and watched him have a short but brilliant career in North America, winning the Pacific Classic (gr. I) at their home track, Del Mar. And now he has turned into a top-notch sire as well, standing first at John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms, and currently at Will Farish’s Lane’s End Farm. Sidney’s Candy is one of a dozen Candy Ride babies bred by Craig and foaled in 2007.

Craig will have all five of her children with her at the Derby, and as many of her 14 grandchildren as are old enough to make the trip.

“Of course, everyone wants to win,” she said, “but just having a horse in it, when you consider 35,000 Thoroughbreds are born every year and only 20 run in the Kentucky Derby, is very special. You’re one of the contenders, and that in itself is exciting and something to strive for.

“When the race is about to start, I always say, ‘Please, God, keep them safe.’ Naturally, you want to win, but the most important thing is to be safe. Chocolate Candy ran well last year. Now, we’ll see how it sets up for Sidney’s Candy and hope he gets a good post position.”

The encore could end up being oh so sweet for the Craig contingent.