Chocolate Candy

Chocolate Candy

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography

Owner Craig, Chocolate Candy Walk the Walk

Owner also started wieght-loss enterprise that bears her name.

If you happen to be walking the sidewalks of New York in the days leading up to the June 6 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), you just might run into diet guru Jenny Craig, who will be in town for the race.

“I absolutely love New York,” Craig said from her home near Del Mar in Southern California. “I try to get there as often as I can. I’ve covered every museum twice and saw seven plays when I was there late last year. I enjoy everything about New York. But my favorite thing to do is walk. I love walking.”

Craig hopes that the horse she owns, Chocolate Candy, will be doing as much running as she does walking. The son of Candy Ride , whom Craig owned with her late husband, Sid, finished a fast-closing fifth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in his first start outside California, and his connections are looking for a marked improvement in the third leg of the Triple Crown. The colt comes into the Belmont with a career record of four wins from 10 starts, with earnings of $592,500. Racing on aritificial surfaces in California, Chocolate Candy won the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III), California Derby, and Real Quiet Stakes, while finishing second in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and third in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I).

Of course, “Sidewalks of New York” used to be the song played at Belmont Park when the horses for the Belmont Stakes came out onto the track until is was supplanted by “New York, New York” several years ago. Perhaps that is a good omen for Craig as she attempts to win her first North American classic contest.

Craig, whose name is synonymous with the weight-loss empire she built with her late husband in the 1980s and then sold in 2006 to Nestle, grew up in New Orleans, where she attended the races at Fair Grounds. An older brother trained horses there. After their business became a worldwide success, the Craigs were able to purchase and race Thoroughbred stars such as Exchange, Paseana, and Dr Devious, the latter of whom won the Ever Ready Epsom Derby (Eng-I) in England.

Candy Ride is off to a promising career at stud, and Craig supports him with most of her dozen broodmares each year. She bred Chocolate Candy out of the Seattle Slew mare Crownette, whom she bought for her husband as a 60th birthday present in 1992. Chocolate Candy’s fifth-place finish in the Derby represented the best effort for a Craig runner in that race. But for the sloppy going, he may have performed even better.

“When I walked with the horse from the barn, the ground was suctioning my sneakers; they were getting sucked down into the mud. If it was that bad for me, imagine how tough it must have been for the horses. It really wasn’t the best of conditions for Chocolate Candy, who had only been running on synthetic tracks before the Derby. When he came back after the race his face was covered with mud, and that’s always a disadvantage for a come-from-behinder like him, especially since he’d never had that before.

“So for his first time on dirt, and slop, I thought he ran a good race, considering his position early and how he closed. I was happy about it, although as an owner you always want your horse to finish first.”

Craig too along a sizable contingent from California to Louisville, where she also was able to renew acquaintances with people she’s known from the racing community.

“I saw old friends like Marylou Whitney,” Craig said. “We’ve been at the races many times together, and, in fact, we almost bought a horse together. I guess we’re going up against Marylou (who owns Luv Gov) in the Belmont, and if I don’t win, there’s nobody else I’d rather see win than her.”

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer shipped Chocolate Candy directly from Louisville to New York so that he could get acclimated to the racing surface there, and his connections are reporting that the horse is getting over the ground exceedingly well.

Craig said she’s been traveling quite a bit by design over the past year since Sid’s death as a sort of therapy, and she is looking forward to spending even more time in New York. She is certainly anticipating having a big time there Belmont Stakes day.

“Just to have this opportunity--when you consider there are 35,000 Thoroughbreds born every year and only 20 make it to the Derby--it’s an honor to even run in the Derby and the Belmont, regardless of the outcome.”