Welcome to the party, Danzing Candy.
Unraced until November of last year, the Twirling Candy colt emphatically announced his arrival on the Triple Crown trail with a gate-to-wire, two-length score over favored Mor Spirit in the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) March 12 at Santa Anita Park.
A maiden winner at second asking in December and a mile allowance/optional claiming victor in February, the colt owned by breeder Halo Farms, in partnership with Jim and Diane Bashor, set the pace with fractions of :22.96, :46.11, and 1:11.04 through six furlongs and shook off a challenge from Exaggerator in the final turn. Then in the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile dirt test, he comfortably held off a late run from Mor Spirit. Exaggerator finished another three-quarter lengths back in third.
With Mike Smith aboard, Danzing Candy ran a mile in 1:36.38 and finished up in 1:43.04 for trainer Cliff Sise Jr.
Although he had a comfortable lead throughout, Smith preempted criticisms that his colt got away with an easy front-running trip.
"He didn't get away with anything," the jockey said. "If you go :22 on this track today, you're smokin'. And for him to hold off the caliber of horses he held off—(that) was very impressive."
Sise said Danzing Candy will stay home for his final Triple Crown prep, the April 9 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).
"He's three-for-three on this track," the trainer said. "Why would we change now? I don't see any reason to, but you never know. You've got to leave that up to the owners."
Off as the 5-1 fourth choice, Danzing Candy brought $13, $5.20, and $3.40 across the board. Mor Spirit, the 8-5 favorite, delivered $3.40 and $2.20, while Exaggerator brought $2.40 to show.
For Mor Spirit, last out winner of the Robert B. Lewis (gr. III), trainer Bob Baffert was ultimately pleased with his second-place run Saturday and also said the Eskendereya colt would stay home for the Santa Anita Derby.
"He ran well," Baffert said. "That horse that won is a pretty good horse. ... He's coming on. A mile and an eighth will be more to his liking, but he got a lot out of it today."
Uncle Lino raced in second most of the way, but tired to finish fourth, followed by Smokey Image and I Will Score, to complete the order of finish.
Danzing Candy was bred in Kentucky, out of the Songandaprayer mare Talkin and Singing, and now has a 3-0-0 record from four starts with earnings of $308,650.