Front-running Sidney's Candy, making his first start around two turns, led all the way in winning the $150,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Santa Anita March 13.
Ridden by Joe Talamo, Sidney's Candy opened up a 2 1/2-length lead in mid-stretch over Interactif and held that one safe by a half-length while fully extended in 1:42.30 over the Pro-Ride main track. The 1 1/16-mile San Felipe is the last major local stakes prep for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 3.
Caracortado, the 7-5 favorite in the field of seven 3-year-olds, was out-kicked after racing four wide into the lane and finished third. The popular California-bred gelding lost for the first time in six starts for trainer Mike Machowsky.
Sidney's Candy was bred by Jenny and Sidney Craig and is owned by the Craig Family Trust. John Sadler trains the chestnut colt, who was a buzz horse for the Triple Crown trail last summer at Del Mar when he posted a sizzling four-length maiden win in his second start. But after a fourth-place finish in a first-level allowance race four months later, the interest waned a bit. He debuted in 2010 with a 4 1/4-length triumph in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) over the track Feb. 15.
Breaking from post 5, Talamo sent the son of Candy Ride —Fair Exchange, by Storm Cat, directly to the lead and that's where he stayed while clipping off easy fractions of :24.39, :48.55, and 1:13.53 and maintaining a one-length advantage over an anxious American Lion , who gave way on the final turn.
"When I saw those splits, I was pretty confident," Sadler said.
Sidney's Candy shook loose in the stretch as Interactif and Caracortado worked hard to keep up. Interactif began to slice into the lead in the final furlong for Rafael Bejarano, but ran out of room while making a strong impression in his first race off the turf since last summer for trainer Todd Pletcher. Interactif was 1 1/2 lengths clear of Caracortado and Paul Atkinson.
"The plan was to get to the lead, relax and kick when they came to him," Talamo said. "For him to go from a seven-eighths sprint to a mile-and-a-sixteenth and relax like that is amazing. We knew last summer he was a quality horse and the way he did this today was so impressive. He has the demeanor of an older horse.”
“(Sidney’s Candy) was just going too slow," Bejarano said. I thought that (American Lion) might put a little more pressure on him. My horse made a really good move at the three-eighths pole. I thought I was going to catch the leader because my horse showed a real good turn of foot. But we just couldn’t catch the winner because he had gone so slow earlier.”
American Lion was no threat while coming home 2 1/2 lengths behind the show horse. He was followed by Stephen's Got Hope, Dave in Dixie and Erbeia.
Sidney's Candy's third win in five starts was worth $90,000 to his connections and bumped his lifetime earnings to $223,560.
Sadler said Sidney's Candy will probably stick around for the Santa Anita Derby.
"That’s kind of the plan," he said. "We’ll see how he comes out of it. We always take it on a race by race basis."
Sent off as the co-second choice, Sidney's Candy carried 117 pounds and paid $9.60, $5.20, and $3.20. Interactif, who figures to stay on the Triple Crown trail for owners Wertheimer and Frere following his encouraging effort, returned $6.60 and $3.20. The $2 exacta was worth $58.40. The 119-pound high weight Caracortado, winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) in his most recent start Feb. 13, paid $2.40 to show.
Atkinson said the favorite ran well, but the slow fractions may have taken away Caracortado's late kick.
"He felt like he kicked on and exploded. But it wasn’t quite enough," he said. "I can’t complain. The race didn’t set up for us, but he ran great.”