Twirling Candy The One To Beat

Twirling Candy the one to beat in Big 'Cap

TWIRLING CANDY (Candy Ride [Arg]) has virtually done it all in a brief seven-race career, winning on all types of surfaces as well as major races around one turn and two. The last unexplored area for him is negotiating the classic 1 1/4-mile distance, not only the length of Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita H. (G1) but also the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), presumably the long-term goal of the John Sadler trainee.

The 122-pound highweight in the Big 'Cap, Twirling Candy figures to be an overwhelming favorite over 10 rivals on the basis of recent wins in the Malibu S. (G1) and Strub S. (G2). While the seven-furlong Malibu proved a challenge as he needed the length of the stretch to get past sprint specialist Smiling Tiger (Hold That Tiger) by a nose, the 1 1/8-mile Strub in contrast was a tour de force.

On the muscle throughout as he pulled early with Joel Rosario in the saddle, Twirling Candy finally settled down the backside as Indian Firewater (Indian Charlie) set a fast pace. Assuming command approaching the quarter pole, Twirling Candy opened up on the field and strolled home 4 1/2 lengths while under minimal hand encouragement.

Twirling Candy has won all but one of his starts, the lone loss occurring in the Goodwood S. (G1) at Hollywood Park in October. He will be reunited Saturday with Rosario, who has been aboard for five of the colt's six wins.

A clear second in the Strub was TWEEBSTER (Tapit), one of four horses Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will saddle for the Big 'Cap. Tweebster also occupied the runner-up slot in the San Fernando S. (G2) behind stablemate Indian Firewater. However, Tweebster, Lone Star Derby (G3) hero and recent allowance winner GAME ON DUDE (Awesome Again), and San Pasqual S. and San Antonio S. (G2) runner-up SPURRIER (Dixieland Band), will take a backseat in the wagering to a relatively new shooter in the Baffert barn.

FIRST DUDE (Stephen Got Even), an impressive physical specimen, has thus far been unable to translate that asset into wins. Indeed, the dual classic-placed colt is still eligible for a first-level allowance. However, Donald Dizney's homebred bankrolled more than $800,000 last year by not playing the conservative card. Former trainer Dale Romans ran First Dude in the best races all season, and the colt took home minor shares in the Preakness S. (G1), Belmont S. (G1), Haskell Invitational (G1), Travers S. (G1), Blue Grass S. (G1) and Pennsylvania Derby (G2).

Despite recent unplaced finishes in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) and Sunshine Millions Classic, the expectations for First Dude have not changed with the change in scenery. That's especially true after the colt has raised his connections' optimism following a trio of local five-furlong works, highlighted by a best-of-104 move on February 18. Martin Garcia, who rode champion Lookin at Lucky to victory over First Dude twice last year, picks up the mount.

GLADDING (Sarava) is undefeated in two starts for Sadler since arriving from South Florida. The latter score was a one-length, wire-to-wire triumph in the February 6 San Antonio over nine furlongs. Third that day was AGGIE ENGINEER (E Dubai), who had captured the San Pasqual and Native Diver H. (G3) in his prior two outings. California Cup Classic hero SOUL CANDY (Birdonthewire), subsequently third in the Native Diver and Sunshine Millions Turf, is another in the hunt for one of the top prizes.

Hoping to pull a Martial Law-type upset of the Big 'Cap are PODE IR (Brz) (Crimson Tide), SETSUKO (Pleasantly Perfect) and QUINDICI MAN (Came Home).

The grassy $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile H. (G1), one of the supporting features on a blockbuster 11-race program, has been won the past two seasons by the mare Proviso (GB) and multiple champion Gio Ponti (Tale of the Cat). Runner-up by a nose to the former was Grade 1 veteran FLUKE (Brz) (Wild Event), who will seek to avenge that defeat against nine others.

Fluke, who was sidelined a good chunk of 2010, scored his first win since the 2009 Citation H. (G1) in the February 5 Thunder Road H. (G3) over the Kilroe course and distance. Left in his wake were Proudinsky (Ger) (Silvano [Ger]) and Victor's Cry (Street Cry [Ire]), thus making the Thunder Road a far better race than its Grade 3 designation would suggest.

Cutting back in trip for the Kilroe are Sunshine Millions Turf hero CARACORTADO (Cat Dreams) and JERANIMO (Congaree), who captured the San Gabriel S. (G2) prior to a dull fourth as the favorite in the Sunshine Millions. SQUARE EDDIE (Smart Strike), who broke the 6 1/2-furlong track record on Santa Anita's dirt before trailing the field of nine in the Donn H. (G1), returns to a surface where he's one-for-four.

GALLANT SON (Malabar Gold), who landed the Inglewood H. (G3) last summer, could move forward following a second in a downhill turf allowance last month. Returning from layoffs in the Kilroe are Oak Tree Mile (G2) winner LIBERIAN FREIGHTER (Bertrando), the trailer in the Citation H. (G2) when last seen in November, and ACCLAMATION (Unusual Heat), speedy winner last summer of the Charles Whittingham H. (G1) and Jim Murray H. (G2) who's been sidelined since July.

The best of the others is Hollywood Derby (G1) runner-up SEBASTIAN FLYTE (GB) (Observatory), third last out in the San Marcos S. (G2) over 1 1/4 miles.

On the California worktab

Palos Verdes S. (G2) star EUROEARS (Langfuhr) sped a bullet six furlongs in 1:10 3/5 over Santa Anita's fast main track on Wednesday. The Bob Baffert trainee is readying for the March 26 Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1).

Grade 2 winner CROWN OF THORNS (Repent), runner-up in the Goodwood S. (G1) and Pat O'Brien S. (G1) in his only two starts of 2010, worked four furlongs in :47 2/5.

Grade 3 scorer GALLANT SON (Malabar Gold), second against allowance rivals to open his five-year-old season, logged four panels in :47.

California Breeders' Champion S. hero THIRTYFIRSTSTREET (Good Journey) turned a half-mile in :48 2/5 in his first work since running fourth in the Robert B. Lewis S. (G2) last out.

Robert B. Lewis third QUAIL HILL (Candy Ride [Arg]), a candidate for either the March 12 San Felipe S. (G2) or Sunland Derby (G3) on March 27, posted three-quarters in 1:13 1/5.

Grade 3-placed stakes victress WELL DESERVED (Cactus Ridge), third in in the Wishing Well S. most recently, covered four furlongs in :49 in advance of Saturday's Clocker's Corner H.

PLUM PRETTY (Medaglia d'Oro), third in the Las Virgenes S. (G1) and Santa Ynez S. (G2) in her two start this year, motored five-eighths in 1:00 3/5.

Multiple Grade/Group 3-placed SURREY STAR (Ire) (Dubawi), fourth in the San Vicente S. (G2) last out, traveled five furlongs in 1:00 1/5.



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