by Becky Johnston
I admit it. I am in love with a chestnut colt named Sidney’s Candy. If he had a fan club, I would apply for presidency.
Apparently, there is something wrong with that. The other day, in passing, I mentioned to a wagering acquaintance that I was not just financially hoping Sidney’s Candy would win for my 33-1 payoff in the future book, it was more than that. I feel an emotional attachment to the horse and I want to see him succeed. Apparently, from his reply, there is something terribly wrong with that. “That’s nuts you only get emotionally attached if you own the horse”.
Well sign me up with the nuts then.
What happened to the “romance of the sport”? Have we gotten so caught up in takeouts, artificial surfaces, carryovers and the late pick four that we can no longer remember what it feels like to fall in love with a horse?
I doubt all the people that adored Seabiscuit were doing so because they cashed a $2 win ticket with a 5% takeout. They loved him because it felt right. It was fun, an escape.
July 25, 2009, three years to the day that I lost my father, I placed a wager at Del Mar on a first time starter owned by Jenny Craig, named for her late husband Sid Craig. I don’t know what I expected, but I don’t think I expected to be so smitten.
Sidney’s Candy’s pedigree read like a who’s who of horses that I have admired through the years.
We all know his sire, the 2003 Pacific Classic winner Candy Ride, but it was his grandsire, Ride the Rails, that stands out for me. The son of Cryptoclearance took to the track on a perfect winter day in Florida. As I clung to the outside rail he challenged and defeated the 1-9 two-year-old champion Dehere, in his seasonal debut at Gulfstream Park.
Gulfstream Park 1994 Allowance
Candy’s second dam, Exchange, was another favorite. She won a solid half of her 24 starts in blue collar fashion, she earned them. Here’s an example:
1994 Matriarch Stakes
“You just don’t go by Exchange.” That’s right Trevor you just don’t.
Exchange only produced one foal, a filly by Storm Cat named Fair Exchange, the dam of Sidney’s Candy.
Sidney’s Candy broke on top in his first race, but settled nicely for Joe Talamo then came on again against the highly touted and speedy Bob Baffert trainee, Tiny Woods. The chestnut colt fell just a neck short of the win at 10-1.
I hadn’t found a Derby contender this early since Summer Squall bulled his way through a field of bystanders in the Hopeful, August of 1989, but I knew this was THE one for me.
A little less than a month later, Sidney’s Candy was back in the gate, again breaking on top, but settling nicely.
Sidney’s Candy, Del Mar Race 7, Maiden Special Weight, August 22, 2009
“Moving like a winner.” Check
The two-year-old set the track record, but then news came that the colt had sore shins and was given time off. I was disappointed when he didn’t make an appearance at the Oak Tree meet. In fact, he didn’t appear again until an inauspicious start at Santa Anita on December 30th. He was tardy at the break in a five horse field and the speedy Tiny Woods got the best of him again. He managed only fourth. A tired looking fourth, but nothing worse than that.
February 15 was the next circled date on his calendar, President’s Day.
San Vicente Stakes
“Annihilating them.” Check.
Then another month and he would try two turns for the first time.
San Felipe Stakes
“Full of Run.” Check.
With all eyes on the champion Lookin at Lucky, Sidney’s Candy’s next staggering performance took a backseat to controversy in April.
Santa Anita Derby
“You’re going to have to pick up your feet if you want to catch me.” Check.
Here I am, a nut. A nut in love with a racehorse. Check.
I don’t know what it is that makes us fall in love with certain horses nor why everyone doesn’t love the same one. What’s more, I don’t care.
I would rather be labeled a silly horse loving girl than become an unaffected onlooker that simply shuffles money through a window or a broadband connection. I don’t play slots, poker, blackjack or the lottery. I am a wagering thoroughbred racehorse fan and a financial cog in the wheel. I have been for almost 25 years.
Maybe I should have been offended by the slight. Instead I feel sorry for anyone that can’t fall in love just a little bit with a horse like Sidney’s Candy. This little colt has given my family and I a great ride these last few months.
After the race is run, win, lose or draw, my brother from 600 miles away will call and we will talk about the race, we will remember the wonderful spring that the colt gave us and be thankful for everything he represents.
Oh and one more thing, I will still be in love with a little red spark-plug of a colt named Sidney’s Candy.