Candy Ball and Miguel Mena cruise to victory in the Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Candy Ball and Miguel Mena cruise to victory in the Bayou Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Lynn Roberts

Candy Ball Wires Bayou BC Handicap

The 6-year-old mare earns her second stakes win Feb. 23 at Fair Grounds.

Candy Ball broke sharply and led every step of the way in the $150,000 Bayou Breeders’ Cup Handicap Feb. 23 at Fair Grounds, soundly defeating five rivals in the 1 1/8-mile test that was moved to the dirt.

Like her previous start – the Jan. 26 Marie G. Krantz Memorial Handicap at Fair Grounds – the scheduled turf event was moved to the main track because of heavy rains in the New Orleans area over the past two days. But unlike that runner-up effort in which the 6-year-old mare was caught from behind and lost by a neck in the final strides to Autobahn Girl, there would be no heartbreak.

This time, with Miguel Mena aboard, Candy Ball won by 3 1/2 lengths. Her final time was 1:52.21 on a fast track. Swingit finished second, another 3 1/2 lengths in front of Platinee. Even-money favorite Autobahn Girl was fourth.

A chestnut mare by Lemon Drop Kid , Candy Ball won for seventh time in her career, but it was only her second score on dirt. Mena rode the Andrew Leggio, Jr. trainee for the first time.

“I knew I had plenty of horse turning for home after those early fractions,” said the 21-year-old Mena. “At the quarter pole I asked her to run and she ran huge. She was really very comfortable and relaxed for me all the way. I couldn’t have asked for anything better."

Breaking from post two, Candy Ball moved clear around the first turn and was able to secure an easy lead. Her uncontested advantage continued through six furlongs, as she posted soft fractions of :24.94, :49.75 and 1:14.25. Platinee stalked the whole way, with Mystic Soul a bit further back, and Autobahn Girl and Ballymore Lady in the next grouping. Swingit was last. Just Little was scratched.

As Candy Ball came out of the far turn she found herself all alone, and as they straightened away she had a three-length advantage. She was still clear by the sixteenth-pole and continuing to run well with strong handling from Mena. A mild rally from the middle of track by Swingit was of little consequence to the winner.

Going off at odds of 4-1, Candy Ball paid $10.80, $5.40, $3.80. The exacta (2-1) was worth $44.80, while the trifecta (2-1-4) returned $248.

Out of the Private Account mare Merry Festival, Candy Ball was bred in Kentucky by J.M.J. Stables Corporation. It was her second lifetime stakes victory, the other coming July 16, 2006 in the Fresa Stakes on the turf at Lone Star Park.

A $12,000 yearling purchase in 2003, Candy Ball has now earned $271,075 in 19 starts for Tom and Sue Ball’s Rancha Fresa Inc.

(Chart, Equibase)