Haskin's Derby Trail: What Does Candy Have in Store?

There are a number of interesting new faces competing in the three Derby preps this weekend, as well as several familiar, but forgotten names. From a star appeal standpoint, one would love to see Creative Cause and I’ll Have Another finish 1-2 in the Santa Anita Derby and Gemologist and Alpha 1-2 in the Wood Memorial (not necessarily in that order), and then Bodemeister and Hansen running big in the Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass Stakes, respectively, the following week.

But there are several potential stars in the making who could add a new twist to the Kentucky Derby picture if they spring an upset this weekend.

As of Friday morning, John Sadler still hadn’t made up his mind whether to run his recent maiden winner Holy Candy in the Santa Anita Derby or wait a week and head east for either the Blue Grass or Arkansas Derby. Sadler obviously is looking for the best spot to win, something Holy Candy likely will have to do in order to make it into the Derby field.

The Arkansas Derby probably is the easiest spot, but is expected to have a large field that includes Bodemeister and Secret Circle from the Bob Baffert barn.

When you have a horse who waits this long to break his maiden and still has no graded stakes earnings, you have to resign yourself to the fact that the ship most likely is going to sail without you, pardon the cliché. Only a winning performance against accomplished graded stakes horses is going get you on board.

Holy Candy has that intriguing unknown factor, and it has to be noted that he’s already won at Santa Anita and is at home there, so you might as well go for broke where you know he's comfortable. And remember, Creative Cause doesn’t have to win the Santa Anita Derby or even finish second. He’s in the Kentucky Derby even if he just runs around the track, so trainer Mike Harrington is not going push him hard and risk leaving his race here by peaking too early. I’ll Have Another also is a hot Derby contender, but still is an unknown quantity who is coming off a two-month layoff. The diminutive Midnight Transfer would become a fan favorite at Churchill if he can land the Santa Anita Derby because of his small stature. We haven’t given up on Liaison yet and expect a much-improved effort second race blinkers off. Senor Rain, who has placed in three stakes, is coming off an impressive allowance score at seven furlongs. The real wild horse in here is Paynter, who is being touted as something freaky, but has only one 5 ½-furlong maiden score to his credit. And a longshot we feel has a big chance to bounce back with a huge performance is Longview Drive, whose last start in the Southwest Stakes was a toss out, considering the trip he had. He could be a very smart bet in here, especially in the exotics.

Holy Candy did not defeat much in his maiden victory and his Beyer speed figure was pretty slow compared to the leading 3-year-olds. But here is where the intangibles come in play. From strictly a visual standpoint, his maiden score was arguably the most impressive race by a 3-year-old we’ve seen all year. It was a race you had to see to appreciate.

There was something about his scintillating victory that really caught the eye and made you take notice. His prior races were all good and against some talented horses, but this one was extraordinary. The pace was slow, and he really had no business running down the pacesetter, trained by Baffert, even though he’s certainly not one of Baffert’s top 3-year-olds. But Holy Candy turned in a blistering final half in :46 1/5 and final quarter in :22 4/5, exhibiting a powerful and efficient stride that covered a great deal of ground. He blew by the leader and quickly drew off to win by 3 ½ lengths. By the time he reached the first turn galloping out, he was 15 lengths in front and looked like he wanted to go around again.

It's difficult judging a horse's true ability in a maiden race, and we've seen many spectacular maiden winners regress when they face winners. All we’re saying is that this is a horse to keep a close eye on wherever he winds up running. He could be something special.

Two other potential stars

Two other lightly raced horses with no stakes experience who bear watching are Morgan’s Guerrilla in the Illinois Derby and Street Life in the Wood Memorial.

Morgan’s Guerrilla did not draw well, breaking from post 12, but the word is he is an extraordinarily talented colt with a bright future. Street Life has turned in back-to-back electrifying stretch runs, and if he can duplicate that explosive turn of foot against Gemologist, Alpha, and My Adonis he will be hot Derby contender, especially considering his sire and broodmare sire are both Kentucky Derby winners.

And how far can The Lumber Man take them in the Wood? He’s two for two and has never been challenged at any point.

Finally, you have the always dangerous Nick Zito, who is like a badger. He is often most dangerous when his back is against the wall, as it will be with Casual Trick, a colt who looked like any kind when he was second to Reveron in the Gulfstream Park Derby. But he displaced in his last two starts, finishing far up the track. He’s had a procedure done, and we can only wait and find out if and to what degree it worked. Even a hard-knocker like Tiger Walk has a chance to surprise a lot of people. In seven career starts, he has drawn the outside post or second from the outside in every one of them, and as a result has had some terrible trips. He’s drawn 7 of 8 in the Wood, and if he can get a good trip he could at least pick up a piece of it at a huge price.


Leave a Comment:


Thanks, Steve. I always love these lead-up columns to the Derby.  Even more fun is to go back and read them after the Derby to see what you said about the winner. I'm quite taken with Take Charge Indy - I think I saw a throwaway line that he gallops 2 miles every other day.  I've always liked that type of program that builds stamina slowly and surely.  The 3-year-olds being coddled by having 4 to 6 weeks between races are usually doomed by the quick sequence of Triple Crown races.

06 Apr 2012 2:32 PM

It'll be a difficult weekend to make profits. Even "gimmick" betting may not be that profitable.

The mathematics and 20-25% gimmick takeouts will force people to really "back-up" their bets. Be careful folks!

06 Apr 2012 3:30 PM
Aaron McC

Steve - This may be the most original title punning on one of Candy Ride's offsprings' names.  And you've convinced me about this colt's ability too.  

I'm still not convinced about Street Life, though recent races on Aqueduct's outer track have convinced me that the form from the inner dirt is no indication of form on the main track. Closers are solid. Its a whole new ball game - like switching bats from from aluminum to Wood.  

06 Apr 2012 3:55 PM
Matthew W

Love I'll Have Another at Santa Anita, have to think Baffert will use Paynter to extend O'Neil's horse, Harrington takes blinks off after a win he's thinking Kentucky Derby, if I'll Have Another can relax a bit, he'll win big! I have heard of Holy Candy the whole meet, he's late on the scene but he has talent, and the Wood has another late arrival, Gemologist, who I like to run in the exacta with Street Life, who, like Holy Candy, has the look of stamina! Of course, Gemologist, by Tiznow, can be any kind--Steve, this year's crop  looks like one of the best crops I have ever seen! I'll Have Another is my pick to win the Santa Anita Derby--and The Kentucky Derby, and my longshot sleeper is Daddy Nose Beast--er-Best!

06 Apr 2012 4:27 PM

The Lumber Man winning the Wood would be one of the greatest stories ever if they could coax Eddie Maple to come out of retirement and be the jock. LOL.

06 Apr 2012 4:59 PM

Seems to me that all of New Orleans are riding Holy Candy since Drew Brees is one of his owners.

06 Apr 2012 6:08 PM

Perhaps, with the Santa Anita Derby being run over the Easter break, the 'Derby Gods' have ordained a positive outcome for 'Holy Candy.' Mind you, the 'Derby Gods' have not been too kind too the 'uninitiated' when it comes to the Santa Anita Derby. Anyway, all I am hoping for is a clear run for Longview Drive.

In the Wood Memorial I am hoping that the "Derby Gods' are kindly looking down upon Casual Trick. For me, the Kentucky Derby is lacking without Nick Zeto involved. Alpha to run second.

Steve, thank-you for all your wonderful articles that I have read over the past decades, boundless pleasure.      

06 Apr 2012 7:21 PM
Mike Monarchos

I just can't see Street Life winning the Wood. Yes he's won his last two races, but the times were very slow. 1:46 and change in his last 1 1/16 race. He might get up for third if he's lucky. Gemologist should be hard to beat. Alpha should get second to insure a Derby trip.

In the Santa Anita Derby Creative Cause is the best colt, but he doesn't have to win. his trainer is taking the blinkers off him for the first time. That's kinda risky. I'm going to put some money on Paynter because of a dream. Maybe I'm just dreaming, but I'll try anything to cash a ticket. I even keyed Draynay's pick in thr 4th at Keeneland today. Bad decision, his 3 horse got beat by a longshot!

I'm still trying to decide who to bet in the Illinois Derby???

06 Apr 2012 7:28 PM
Mike Monarchos


Will you please give your thoughts about Gemologist's unusual action with his left front leg?

This is the second time I've asked. I ever said PLEASE! Thanks.

06 Apr 2012 7:35 PM
Don from PA/DE

Yes Steve, after Saturday the KD Gods will be beaming, I expect "Gemologist" to win big time with any of the other 7 coming in behind him, but strange things can happen, and if not, we may be looking at a new "unexpected" star, but "GEM" should be shinning brightly, and peaking at the perfect time to move on to big stardom....Don

06 Apr 2012 7:57 PM

Good article Steve and cute title too.  

Hmmmmm.......Martin Garcia is riding Paynter?  Ok, Paynter is my first choice for the Santa Anita Derby.  Garcia is a brilliant young rider and I have a lot of faith in him.  And Marilyn's dream................

Santa Anita Derby:


Creative Cause

Midnight Transfer (I gotta give the little Hard Spun a chance)

For the Wood, I'm still:


Street Life

My Adonis

I have no idea what to make of the Illinois Derby.  

06 Apr 2012 8:33 PM
Pedigree Ann

Sending a one-race maiden winner at 5.5f into a G1 at 9f against seasoned stakes performers is the most bizarre thing I have heard of a trainer doing in a long time. Yes, he's by Awesome Again out of a full sister to Tiznow so he should love the distance. But you don't even know if he can beat winners or go two turns yet! It is far too late for him to make the Derby with a chance to win at this point, so why throw him to the wolves?

Same sort of thought on Holy Candy. If they want to have some horse later in the year, they should let the Derby go. I don't care how impressively he beat maidens; if bad maidens were stopping in front of him, he could look like the second coming of Hindoo and still not be ready for this level of competition.

06 Apr 2012 8:59 PM
Steve Haskin

Mike Monarchos, its called paddling. Its an abnormality in  the stride that is caused naturally. nothing you can do about it. its not desirable, but it doesnt affect the horse's performance.

07 Apr 2012 2:27 AM

I think the best way to handicap the Illinois Derby is with a ouija board.  A ten cent superfecta with 5 horses only runs you 12 bucks in this unfathomable race.

Mike Monarchos:  The times in Street Life's races were slow due to the dawdling fractions up front.  He overcame that and today will get a much swifter pace to run at.  Chad Brown will win a couple of stakes today besides this one.

I like Midnight Transfer in the SA Derby.

07 Apr 2012 9:26 AM
Mike Monarchos

Thanks Steve,

I love Gemologist and I don't want to see him get hurt. I think he'll do well today in the Wood. I think Gemologist will let the Lumber Guy lead, and pass him at the top of the stretch. He'll then hold off the late charges of My Adonis, Alpha, and Street Life. I'll key Gemologist over those three in exactas, tris, and supers.

Street Life closes well, but the times in his last two inner track  races were slow! I don't see how he can win. My Adonis has been training at Aqueduct, and should get second. Alpha has been off for almost two months and has been working in Florida. He's had six works, which seem good, not great. I'm not sure about him. He needs to get at least third to make the Derby.

07 Apr 2012 10:03 AM
Pedigree Ann

Dr. Fager is supposed to have paddled like a duck. Didn't slow him down. Or cause him injury.

The Pamplemousse paddled AND hit the ground hard with his front-heavy stride. The latter action led to his injury, not the paddling.

07 Apr 2012 10:14 AM

Are the stars aligning for The Lumber Guy?  Perfect for those who play hunch bets.  First, the name. He won his first stakes in the Miracle Wood and now goes in the Wood Memorial.  I think he just adds to the pace scenario and hardly ever make hunch bets unless it's my favorite number.

07 Apr 2012 10:42 AM
El Kabong

Steve, Pedigree Anne

No question the Ark Derby is the easiest spot if they run Holy Candy, but I agree with Pedigree Anne that Derby Fever is often the motivation for decisions that would otherwise never be made. In this year of controversy, I hope all trainers, especially those at the top, will use extra care in their decisions on when and where to run their dependent kids. Think of them as family and make the right decision.

07 Apr 2012 10:45 AM

Wood Memorial:

Let's assume that the Lumber Guy and Gemologist set the pace. Niether should come home on top and there is no telling which will outlast the other. Alpha, although off for a while should be able to take advantage of this duel. Casual Trick was heading in the right direction, but then ran 2 clunkers. They were two tough races, but the class hike proved to be too much. Teeth of the Dog was tooth and nail (pun intended) to get home on ytop with a 13 second final 1/8 against Maidens, so that is a toss. Street life is interesting, but after running the first half in 51, he would need to be a superstar to run down the others. This leaves us with My Adonis and Tiger Walk. My Adonis hasn't run enough to win at this level on a fast track. Seems to do his best on the wet track. (sorry Mike W) Tiger  Walk on the other hand Will love this pace set up and should be flying home. Although I love Alpha, I would box ALPHA/GEMOLOGIST/TIGER WALK/THE LUMBER GUY. And then come back again with both ALPHA/TIGER WALK on the 1-3 positions. There you have it. Go make some $$$

07 Apr 2012 12:20 PM

Santa Anita:

Midnight Transfer

Paynter exacta


Alpha but this race isn't worth a bet


 Morgan's Guerrilla (with Rosie on board)

07 Apr 2012 12:38 PM
Mike Monarchos

Well Gemologist managed to hold off Alpha in the Wood. Alpha looked like he had Gem, but the son of Tiznow held him off just like his dad did in the 2000 & 2001 B. C. Classics. The final time was slow

(1:50.96). I don't really know how the track was playing today? I ended up keying Gem on top of Alpha, My Adonis, Teeth Of the Dog, Street Life, and the Lumber Guy in a dollar tri so I made a little money. The best thing about the race was that two of my Derby Futures picks made the Derby field.

I know Alpha checked on the first turn, but Gem ran wide all the way to the stretch so their trips balanced out.

In the S.A. Derby I bet a 1,4/1,4/2,6,8 tri. I can't believe I left out Baffert's other horse (Blueskiesnrainbows). That dollar tri paid 250.00! I also put Paynter on top in an exacta and tri and he got fourth. That race time was 1:47.88, but Santa Anita is a fast track. I'll Have Another is another horse I have in Derby Futures, and he made the field. Now I need Bodemeister to be first or second in the Arkansas Derby next week.

07 Apr 2012 7:44 PM

You sure called it, Steve!  The Santa Anita Derby and The Wood turned out just as you hoped! You're on a roll!

08 Apr 2012 10:36 AM

Thanks for the article: I love Holy Candy; in fact, I've been following all the Candy's since Ron McAnally brought Candy Ride from Argentina.

It sounds like Sadler is leaning towards the Blue Grass.  I'd rather see him in Arkansas.  I'm not a big synthetic snob, but Kneeland seems to be the worst transition for dirt horses.

08 Apr 2012 12:39 PM
Bill Two

Right on with Morgan's Guerilla who ran a great race at Hawthorne. As a longtime Maryland racing fan I was happy for Ham Smith who won the race with Done Talking. I see a lot of horses with much ability, but how that translates to performance in the Derby, who knows?  We've all seen so many horses who are world beaters at the Wood or Santa Anita distance who need a cab to get a mile-and-a-quarter.  Tread carefully before jumping on anything we've seen so far. I heard you on TVG this morning and I agree with the points you made about Gemologist, but I'm not sold on him yet.  I'm

leery of Graham Motion and Went The Day Well, but who really knows how such a lightly raced horse will react to the Derby environment?  He'll get the distance probably, but that's all we know right now.  All I know is that I haven't seen anything yet that resembles Big Brown or even Monarchos.

08 Apr 2012 1:08 PM

Pedigree Ann,

Dr. Fager DID NOT "paddle like a duck", rather, he had a fluid, nearly perfect action. How do you come up with such hogwash? -perhaps you read it on another blog, from one equally uninformed.

Steve, you were quite familiar with Dr. Fager-why not set her straight?..Yes, there have been poor movers that still became top racehorses-Skip Away comes readily to mind-but paddling, and the like, is a hindrance to optimum performance.

08 Apr 2012 5:56 PM

Holy Candy opted for the Blue Grass.  Mike Smith will be on Bodemeister for the Arkansas Derby.

09 Apr 2012 11:59 AM

Steve, In case you didnt notice, Done Talkin who won the Ill. Derby, was the 29th 2 yr.old maiden winner from Delaware Park to win a Grades Stakes race.

09 Apr 2012 8:58 PM
Mike Monarchos

Mike Smith's riding Bodemeister in the Arkansas Derby? If so, great! Bode probably needs to win to have enough money to make the Derby. No pressure there.

I watched the replay of the Wood several times and didn't really see any extreme paddeling. Maybe with a short oar. I wasn't obvious to me though. I'm going to watch again so I can see Gem throw his ears up at the wire like Steve said.

09 Apr 2012 9:38 PM
Pedigree Ann

Sceptre, I read it in a DRF column about the mare Arachne. Don't recall who wrote it, but said columnist noted Arachne's neat, correct action and suggested that Tartan had acquired her to breed to Dr. Fager as a correction. (Arachne did produce a SW and a SP winner by Dr. Fager.) I shouldn't believe a DRF writer?

10 Apr 2012 10:24 AM

Pedigree Ann-

"There's nothing in his pedigree that makes him a stayer. Still, he does have beautiful action, and the smoothest, longest stride I've ever een on any of my horses.---

direct quote from John Nerud, April 24, 1967, Sports Illustrated.

10 Apr 2012 8:29 PM

Pedigree Ann-

Tartan didn't "acquire" Arachne-they bred her...Can't say whether you should or shouldn't believe a DRF writer, but perhaps you should question your memory (as, at times, must we all).  

10 Apr 2012 8:36 PM
Pedigree Ann

You're right - I was going by memory. But back then, my DRFs were precious and I read and re-read them until they were (I thought) engrained in my memory. Mayhap the wording was different; the writer may have been speculating that Arachne would make a good mate for him because of etc. I keep thinking Gerald Strine for the columnist, but he wrote for the Baltimore paper not the DRF, didn't he?

Didn't start going to tracks until I went to college in So Cal in 1970, so never saw Dr. F in person. Took columnist's word for it. Meant no disrespect; great horse. Not what idiots today call great (after 2 or 3 races), but truly GREAT.

11 Apr 2012 11:35 AM

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