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It Would Be a Sweet Win for McAnally

Successful trainer has never won Del Mar's biggest race, but unbeaten Candy Ride could change that.

August 22, 2003|Bob Mieszerski | Times Staff Writer

DEL MAR — No trainer has won more races by the seaside than Ron McAnally.

A member of the sport's Hall of Fame since 1990, McAnally, who turned 71 on July 11, has more than 400 victories at Del Mar, among them multiple wins in the Del Mar Futurity, Eddie Read Handicap, Del Mar Oaks and Clement L. Hirsch -- formerly the Chula Vista -- Handicap.

However, the track's biggest prize, the $1-million Pacific Classic, has eluded him. The best finish he managed with his five starters was a fourth by Festin in the inaugural running in 1991.

This could all change on Sunday, when the Pacific Classic is run for the 13th time. McAnally will be represented by the unbeaten Candy Ride. Owned by Sid and Jenny Craig, the Argentine-bred hasn't lost in five starts and is the 7-5 second choice to 6-5 favorite Medaglia d'Oro.

Successful in the past with other South American imports -- Paseana and Bayakoa, to name two Eclipse Award winners -- McAnally is confident this could be his year, and he has said that for months. Or ever since he got his first look at Candy Ride.

"I told Sid that if we were ever going to win the Pacific Classic, it would be with this horse," he said.

Contacted about the horse late last year by Dr. Ignacio Pavlosky, who also brought Paseana, Bayakoa and others to his attention, McAnally saw Candy Ride's first two races on tape -- a maiden victory by 12 lengths and an eight-length triumph in a Group 1 at San Isidro.

When Candy Ride won his third race -- another Group 1 at San Isidro and again by eight lengths -- his price rose, and McAnally went to Argentina to see the colt in person.

"We couldn't wait any longer," he said. "I flew down to see him, watched him work out a mile and a quarter and we completed the deal in a couple of days. We X-rayed him, scanned him, scoped him and did everything we were supposed to do."

Purchased for $900,000, Candy Ride has since done everything right, on and off the track.

"Nothing ever seems to bother him," said McAnally. "He's very professional. Every morning, with all the commotion going on around him, he always lays down for an hour.

"He's a very sensible horse. We worked him a mile and an eighth last week, and the next day he was bucking and playing like he hadn't had enough.

"He's got tremendous action. He's very fluid and just glides along."

In his two races in this country, Candy Ride has shown he doesn't need a particular surface to run well.

He won by three lengths on Hollywood Park's main track June 7, then came back less than a month later and won the American Handicap by three-quarters of a length on the Inglewood turf.

The horse directly behind him in the American was Special Ring, who returned to win the Eddie Read, a Grade I, by daylight and set a Del Mar record for 1 1/8 miles on the turf.

Candy Ride will also be trying to win for a third jockey in the U.S.

He has won for Alex Solis, who is committed to Kudos for the Pacific Classic, and Gary Stevens, who had to give up the mount when he was injured in last weekend's Arlington Million.

Julie Krone, in the running for leading rider at the meet with 17 days left, was given the call over a host of other candidates, including Mike Smith, Corey Nakatani, Kent Desormeaux and Patrick Valenzuela.

"She's as good a rider as we have in California right now," McAnally said. "We've had a lot of luck together, and he's not the kind of horse who needs an aggressive rider. He's pretty much push-button. I have total confidence in both Julie and the horse."

A Pacific Classic victory would also be special for the Craigs, who live in nearby Rancho Santa Fe.

The Grade I has not been kind to them. They supplemented Paseana for $30,000 in 1992 and watched her finish fifth as the 17-10 favorite. They were sixth with 15-1 shot Smile Again seven years later.

"I talk to Ron more about this horse than all the other horses we've had together," Craig said. "This horse has done everything that he's been asked so far. So all we have to do is keep our fingers crossed and just hope he continues doing that."

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