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Sweet Win for Candy Ride

He easily beats heavy favorite Medaglia d'Oro in the $1-million Pacific Classic at Del Mar.

August 25, 2003|Bob Mieszerski | Times Staff Writer

DEL MAR — Reduced to four starters, Sunday's $1-million Pacific Classic was hyped as a match race between Medaglia d'Oro and the unbeaten Candy Ride.

It didn't turn out to be much of a contest.

Playing the part of Seabiscuit, Candy Ride, the underdog, dusted War Admiral, er, Medaglia d'Oro, the 3-5 favorite, and put himself squarely in the horse-of-the-year race.

With Julie Krone filling in as jockey for the injured Gary Stevens, Candy Ride tracked Medaglia d'Oro for most of the 1 1/4-mile race, then kicked away in the stretch to win by 3 1/4 lengths.

He was timed in 1:59.11, bettering the Del Mar record for the distance of 1:59.40 set by Bertrando in the Pacific Classic 10 years earlier.

Candy Ride is a 4-year-old Argentine-bred owned by Sid and Jenny Craig, who live in nearby Rancho Santa Fe and dreamed for years of winning Del Mar's signature race, and trained by Ron McAnally, who had lost with his previous eight starters in the Pacific Classic.

"This is the most exciting moment in my horse racing career," said Sid Craig, who has won Breeders' Cup races and the Epsom Derby. "It doesn't get any better than this in your own back yard."

Candy Ride was purchased for $900,000 after winning the first three races of his career in Argentina by total of 28 lengths and brought to the United States, where he has won three in a row by a total of seven lengths.

The logical next step for the son of Ride The Rails is the $4-million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita.

Of course, that is easier said than done. Candy Ride isn't Breeders' Cup eligible and would have to be supplemented for the hefty sum of $800,000. Sid Craig isn't ready to commit to such an expenditure yet, but a win in the Breeders' Cup Classic could make Candy Ride the horse of the year.

"After he won the last time [the American Handicap on July 4 at Hollywood Park], I'd had a couple of drinks and I said, 'He could be the best horse on the planet.' After today, you know what, he might be," Craig said.

McAnally wasn't about to argue. He has been singing the praises of Candy Ride from the time he first saw the horse on tape late last year and was confident heading into Sunday's race.

"This horse is unreal," Mc- Anally said. "His action is flawless and he beat one of the best horses in the country today."

Those sentiments were echoed by Stevens, the previous jockey for Candy Ride who was injured in a bizarre mishap near the finish of the Arlington Million on Aug. 16 and hopes to resume riding this weekend.

Stevens said Krone rode Candy Ride perfectly and made it clear in a conversation they had Saturday she would be riding something special.

"I'm the happiest right now I've ever been without being on the winner," Stevens said. "I told Julie that she was on the best horse she's ever sat on and to ride him with confidence."

Krone did just that.

After a slight bobble at the break, she positioned Candy Ride just off pace-setter Medaglia d'Oro, then took over in the final quarter of a mile.

"This is amazing, unbelievable," Krone said. "This horse is a rocket ship. I've got to thank Gary. He was a big part of this today. He shared his knowledge of the horse with me, about some of his idiosyncrasies. He shares in this win."

Medaglia d'Oro, who had won his previous three races for jockey Jerry Bailey and trainer Bobby Frankel, finished seven lengths ahead of 24-1 shot Fleetstreet Dancer. Milwaukee Brew -- Frankel's other entrant and winner of the Santa Anita Handicap in March -- was last, 12 1/4 lengths behind the winner.

Bailey, whose previous appearance in the Pacific Classic was aboard Cigar in his stunning defeat at 1-10 odds that ended his winning streak at 16, offered no excuses for horse-of-the-year candidate Medaglia d'Oro.

"We were second-best today," he said. "Everybody wanted to find out just how good [Candy Ride] was. Well, we found out. He's pretty damn good."

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