Santa Anita Saturday



Looking like a standout for next month's Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), heavily favored Twirling Candy simply overpowered his rivals in winning the $200,000 Strub Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Feb. 5 Second behind a fast pace set by Indian Firewater, Twirling Candy took the lead rounding the final turn and bounded home by 4 1/2 lengths while completing the 1 1/8-mile distance in a superb time of 1:46.53, three ticks off the track mark of 1:45 4/5 established by Star Spangled in 1979. Seven 4-year-olds contested the Strub.

Twirling Candy, a son of Candy Ride , has already wiped Spectacular Bid's seven-furlong track mark off the Santa Anita books when he clocked a 1:19.70 in the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) on opening day Dec. 26. Off his effort in the Strub, in which jockey Joel Rosario never cocked his stick, The Bid's 1 1/4-mile dirt record of 1:57 4/5 in winning the Strub (then contested at 10 furlongs) in 1980 may also be in danger of falling in the March 5 Big 'Cap.

The Strub Stakes record of 1:45.65 was set by Monterey Jazz over the synthetic track in 2008.

Twirling Candy's win capped a big day for trainer John Sadler and Rosario, who won the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) earlier on the card with Jerry and Ann Moss' Zazu. The Strub victory was the third on the day for Rosario.

A five-time winner in six starts, Jenny Craig's burly dark bay homebred colt's only loss came in a fourth-place effort in last fall's Goodwood Stakes (gr. I), a race that convinced Sadler not to pursue the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I).

“He’s such a nice horse," Sadler said. "My job is just to be a good steward and take good care of him, because he’s a natural runner. There was no concern (going from seven furlongs to a mile and an eighth). My only concern is that I do a good job, because I really feel this is the best horse in the country.

"I beat up myself a few times for the time he got beat, maybe he wasn’t quite his best that day … But I just think if I do the right moves, he’s just a really top horse. He looked really comfortable today. He looked really non-stressed in the winner’s circle and that’s really key for him.”

Twirling Candy was a little anxious early as he prompted a quick pace from Indian Firewater, who traveled :23.44 for the opening quarter-mile, :46.53 for the half and 1:09.95 for six furlongs. Never far off the leader, Twirling Candy vied between his Bob Baffert-trained rivals, Indian Firewater and Tweebster, early on the turn before taking over near the quarter-pole.

Angled to the inside for the stretch run, he kicked clear and after opening a 2 1/2-length gap at the eighth pole, it was only a matter of the official margin while he finished under a tight hold.

"It was tough to get my horse to relax for a little bit," Rosario said. "Going to the half-mile pole he relaxed really nice for me, which is what I wanted, and I just followed the horse on the lead.”

Tweebster, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, was second best by 2 1/2 lengths over Make Music for Me, who nosed Indian Firewater for third with Chantal Sutherland aboard for the first time. Oilisblackgold, Honour the Deputy and Do It All completed the order.

This was the second graded stakes win for Twirling Candy, who captured the Del Mar Derby (gr. II) on grass last summer by 3 1/4 lengths. Out of the Chester House mare House of Danzing, Twirling Candy earned $120,000 for the Strub victory and extended his lifetime earnings to $579,900.

Under co-top weight of 123 pounds, the 1-2 favorite paid $3, $2.40 and $2.10. Tweebster,second to Indian Firewater in the San Fernando Stakes, the second leg in the Strub series last month, returned $3.60 and $2.80. Make Music for Me, improving off a seventh in the San Fernando, was $5.60 to show.

Paris Vegas scratched.


On a day owners Jerry and Ann Moss were presented the first Secretariat "Vox Populi" Award for their superstar mare Zenyatta, they also gained a new grade I winner in Zazu after she knocked off prohibitive choice Turbulent Descent in the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) Feb. 5 at Santa Anita.

Last year's Las Virgenes winner, Blind Luck, went on to win the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and the John Sadler-conditioned Zazu certainly looks like one that could do the same after her impressive victory in the one-mile event.

Given a ground-saving trip by jockey Joel Rosario, Zazu took the lead from May Day Rose in the stretch and held off Turbulent Descent, who drew even mid-stretch on the outside but could not get past the challenger despite strong urging from jockey David Flores.

Zazu, a strapping gray/roan daughter of Tapit , not only turned back the previously unbeaten Turbulent Descent, she edged away approaching the wire to score by 1 1/4 lengths. The final time was a sharp 1:34.86.

Plum Pretty rallied for third, with May Day Rose fourth in the field of six sophomore fillies.

“I saw I was going to have a clean trip inside, and I took it," Rosario said. "She’s a nice filly. Last time I rode her she finished second to another nice filly (California Nectar) at seven furlongs. Today she showed me a little more and we took it from there.”

Penny Chenery, who owned the great Secretariat, was to present the newly-created Vox Populi to the Mosses later in the day. First, though, the owners had the pleasure of seeing the fast-developing Zazu suddenly emerge as a serious factor in the national 3-year-old picture with her first win since breaking her maiden in her second start .

"It's been a good day," Jerry Moss told the crowd afterward.

Asked if Zazu would be pointed to the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) March 5, setting up a possible rematch with Turbulent Descent over 1 1/16 miles, Sadler responded: “Absolutely.”.

Sent off as the second choice, Zaza, dropped over to the inside soon after the start. California Nectar, determined to get the lead over May Day Rose, set off at a tremendous pace, the two fillies leaving the rest of the field about six lengths behind on the backstretch while clicking off sizzling splits of :21.58 for the opening quarter-mile and :44.25 for the half. California Nectar was already falling back as May Day Rose, soon to be confronted by Zazu, completed six furlongs in 1:08.77.

Zazu, two lengths off the leader at that point after tracking in fifth, advanced on the inside around the final turn and angled a bit out for the stretch run. She got a head in front in upper stretch and battled inside Turbulent Descent approaching mid-stretch before inching away in the final sixteenth under left-handed urging from Rosaro.

Turbulent Descent, racing well off the rail most of the way, rallied from last after a half-mile while closing four wide on the final turn. Though she had won her prior three races in similar style, the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) winner may have been a little short in her first race in nearly two months. She drifted in late and appeared to bump with the winner, who proved best from that point.

Sadler said, "It looked like there were three or four that wanted the front, and when I saw we had a lot of pace in front of her, I thought that would really help her today. She has a short run and she wants to close, and some of the other races, it hasn’t played that way for her. So there was a fast pace in front and that’s what we were hoping for.”

“She probably got a little tired," trainer Mike Puype said of Turbulent Descent. "She hasn’t run in eight weeks. She ran good. She got outrun by the Mosses (Zazu). It was a good race. She just got outrun today.”

It was 4 1/4 lengths back to Plum Pretty, ridden by Martin Garcia. May Day Rose, California Nectar and Tiz the Route completed the order.

Zazu lost twice previously to Turbulent Descent at Hollywood Park late last year, finishing second in the Moccasin Stakes and a disappointing fifth in the Starle, the only time in Zazu's six-race career that she finished worse than second. She rebounded with a game runner-up finish to California Nectar in the seven-furlong Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) Jan. 15, closing from last to miss by just a neck.

The victory improved Zazu's career mark to 2-3-0 with earnings of $240,985.

Out of the Mr. Greeley mare Rhumb Line, Zazu was bred in Kentucky by Summerhill Equine. She was a $285,000 Keeneland September yearling buy in 2009. The previous year, she had gone through the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall mixed sale for a $100,000 price tag.

Zazu carried 117 pounds -- five fewer than the favorite -- and paid $10, $3.20 and $2.40. Turbulent Descent, an Eclipse Award finalist last year, returned $2.40 and $2.10 and rounded out the $17.80 exacta. Plum Pretty, third in the Santa Ynez in her stakes debut for Bob Baffert last time, was $4 to show.

Bluegrass Chatter scratched.

by Jack Shinar


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