Newsflash: Todd Pletcher is a pretty good trainer and horses tend to move up when he gets them in his barn.
Prediction: Sidney's Candy will have a monster second half.
Opinion: Sidney's Candy is the most talented horse in the country.
Okay, so the opinion is a bold one, especially for a horse that has just one grade III turf win through seven months of the season. But given what I've seen so far (including the numerous injuries), Sidney's Candy's versatility and speed, and Pletcher's ability to improve horses, I think he will prove it by the end of the year.
In his Fourstardave win Sunday at Saratoga, Sidney's Candy could not have had things any easier on the front end and quite honestly, did not have much to hold off in the stretch. On paper, having to run a : 25.83, :50.49, and 1:14.35 was unimpressive, but realize that this is a horse that has shown the ability to run :22 and change, :45, and 1:08 and change, and still go on. So the slow pace actually may have been a deterrent in the Fourstardave. And when asked in the stretch, he quickened and responded well. Mission accomplished.
Make no mistake, Sidney's Candy is a serious talent. He showed that as a 3-year-old when he won three straight graded races in California including the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby by 4 1/2 lengths. His failed Kentucky Derby effort, which was a complete toss given the circumstances of breaking from post 20 and being ridden hard on a quick pace, is the only bad effort of his career. And take nothing away from John Sadler, but this horse should perform better under Pletcher.
The options for Sidney's Candy are limitless given his versatility. He can pretty much run on any surface from seven to 10 furlongs. Right after the Fourstardave, Pletcher mentioned the seven-furlong Forego and the nine-furlong Woodward as the two options for his next race. WinStar president Elliott Walden echoed those thoughts Tuesday.
"We're very pleased with (the Fourstardave)," Walden said. "Any time you run a horse for the first time you're nervous, especially at 2-5 (odds). But he did it pretty easily and he galloped out well afterward. He came out of the race well.
"We talked about the Whitney, but in retrospect, given the huge field and it being his first race for us, we thought this was the easier spot to get started. Todd is still trying to get a feel for him and we are still trying to get a feel for him.
"He's so versatile, that's the nice thing about him. As we get closer and we see how he works on dirt and we get more comfortable with him, we'll find the right spot."
Walden said the Woodward is probably the more appealing race if they are going to take a run at Horse of the Year, but the Forego might be a better option in terms of his stallion worth. As far as going on to the BC Classic later in the year, that is not out of the question but probably unlikely at this point.
"I think he is a brilliant miler," Walden said. "Do I think he can stretch his speed to a mile and an eighth, yeah. A mile and quarter, I'm not sure. I'm not saying he can't either but it's probably not (his ideal distance)."
Personally, I'd like to see Sidney's Candy go in the Sept. 3 Woodward and take a shot at the Jockey Club Gold Cup after that. I would understand if they didn't want to stretch him out beyond nine furlongs, but I don't see anyone else in the handicap division that would scare me away from trying, and the Horse of the Year title is ripe for the taking. He won't have a chance by sprinting. Plus, looking ahead, I'm not so sure they want to take on Goldikova in the BC Mile again. The BC Dirt is an option, but that doesn't really inspire me.
Wherever he winds up, Sidney's Candy should be a force.