By Dick Downey
Photo by Santa Anita
Candy Boy stalked an honest pace under Gary Stevens, made a winning move in the stretch and took the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita in the final jumps.
Timed in 1:41.83 for 1 1/16 mile, the John Sadler trainee prevailed over Chitu by a half-length, followed another 1 1/4 length by Midnight Hawk. Pacesetter Diamond Bachelor faded to fourth, beaten six lengths. They were followed across the finish line by Home Run Kitten, Cool Samurai and El Nino Terrible.
Diamond Bachelor broke from post 2 and led the field through fractions of :23.33, :46.80 and 1:10.84. Chitu and Midnight Hawk were on his tail while Candy Boy and Stevens, who broke from post 1, sat patiently in fourth. There was almost no change in the order of the top four runners from the first call of the race through the second turn.
After heads turned for home, Diamond Bachelor began to fade while Candy Boy began to surge. He got by Chitu in the closing strides, leaving Stevens to waste no time in beginning to think about the Santa Anita Derby.
Bred in Kentucky by Lee and Susan Searing, Candy Boy is owned by the Searings' C R K Stable. Candy Boy's breeding has an international flavor. By Candy Ride (ARG), he's out of the In Excess (IRE) mare She's an Eleven.
It was the second time aboard Candy Boy for Stevens, who first rode him in the CashCall Futurity in December. In arrears by 11 lengths after the first quarter-mile, Stevens made a huge move on Candy Boy to put him only 4 1/2 lengths off the lead a quarter-mile later. After taking the lead on the turn, Candy Boy was passed by Shared Belief, and he finished second, beaten 5 3/4 lengths.
This time, Candy Boy was closer to the early pace -- only two lengths back after both the first quarter-mile and the half -- but he again made his move when prompted by Stevens.
It was the second win in six starts for Candy Boy, who now has victories on both synthetic and dirt tracks. He broke his maiden in November at Betfair Hollywood Park in his fourth start.
Candy Boy earned 10 Kentucky Derby points and a $120,000 share of the $200,000 Lewis purse. Those points debut him on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard at number nine.
Chitu picked up four points. Midnight Hawk got two, running his total to 12 after earning 10 points for winning the Sham Stakes. Diamond Bachelor, whose only other race on dirt resulted in a ninth place finish in the Breeders Cup Juvenile, got one Kentucky Derby point.
Candy Boy was sent off at odds of 2-1, the second betting choice behind did Midnight Hawk. He paid $6.60 to win, $3.20 to place and $2.20 to show.
Only two Kentucky Derb y Prep Season races remain: next Saturday’s El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields and the Southwest Stakes on President’s Day at Oaklawn Park. The Kentucky Derby Championship Series, when the Derby points at stake grow significantly, begins Saturday’s Feb. 22 with the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park and the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds.
John Sadler: “Very good. I just wanted Gary to be patient, because this horse runs a distance, no problem. He kind of had a premature move a little bit in the CashCall. I think Gary will tell you that, you know, he moved him a little bit quick. Now he knows him a little better. He’s been on him a couple times in the morning, so we felt good going into today’s race.
“When you’re looking around the United States, weather everywhere else is terrible, so right now, I’m staying right here (for Candy Boy's next race). They had to cancel at Oaklawn on Friday, so we’re not looking to go anywhere but to stay right in our own backyard.”
Gary Stevens: “For a big horse, he has a lot of acceleration and confidence on the turn. I was closer than I thought we were going to be today. He’s grown a lot lately. He's grown, but he’s also grown (mentally), too. I’ve been up for his last five works, and we haven’t really squeezed the trigger yet. The gallop-out was huge today, and I was already thinking about the Santa Anita Derby as we were galloping out around the turn. It was a lot of fun and he didn’t even take a deep breath after the race. He’s a super talent.
“He’s not a typical Candy Ride, he sits higher than others and he continues to grow. The further the better for him. He has a high cruising speed. I couldn’t believe the time. When we were coming back, I saw the time was one-forty-one, with the first quarter in twenty-three and change but it felt like we were going twenty-five down the backside. He covers so much ground. When you set him down, he really gets underneath you and gives you a really good feeling.
“He’s the number one draft choice for me. That was quite a performance he just put on against some pretty nice three-year-olds. We were quietly confident about him, and we were in a good spot. Everybody was all over Midnight Hawk, and we just got to sit back and be quiet the last few weeks. He’s been giving us all the right signals in the morning. I had high expectations coming into today, and he pulled through and surpassed those expectations. I mean, during the gallop-out you’re still checking all the gauges, and his were all still on full. Further will be better for him. He’s really matured mentally. He’s very intelligent, and that’s what separates these horses from the mediocre horses. The lessons he learned over wintertime paid off, and I don’t think we’re even halfway there yet with him.”
Bob Baffert in re Chitu: “He was in a good spot and ran a pretty good race. I think he deserves another chance – maybe slow him down a little bit, maybe take the blinkers off him. The winner’s a good horse and was in a good spot. Gary Stevens did a great job.”
Martin Garcia, Chitu: “He took a misstep (soon after the start), I don’t know why. But he ran a good race, first time going two turns.”
Bob Baffert in re Midnight Hawk: “I liked his race a little better today. He got a little tired there. I backed off him a little because I’m trying to slow him down a little. I liked the way he sat off horses today. He wouldn’t do it before. He’s been a little bit of a project mentally to get him back, and he just got a little tired at the end. But he hung in there. That’s a pretty impressive time. When they run 1:41 and change, those are really good horses. We got beat by a really good horse today. I think they’re both good horses.”
Mike Smith, Midnight Hawk: “He ran well today. Those were our best three year olds so I was really hoping he would kick on when I asked him. He was a bit keen early on. I really can’t give him a lot of excuses. I mean, I was there at the quarter-pole and I wasn’t at the wire. He was great today, he didn’t lug in at all. He was good; he just didn’t kick on.”