In the mid-1990s, trainer Ron McAnally showed Sid Craig tapes of an Argentine-bred colt who looked like the real goods.
The asking price for Gentlemen, the horse in the tapes, was $1 million. That was about $700,000 more than Craig had paid for his future champion, the Argentine-bred Paseana, a few years before, so he and McAnally passed on Gentlemen. The happy end to the story belonged to R.D. Hubbard, who eventually became the principal owner of Gentlemen as the horse carved a U.S. career that totaled $3.3 million in purses.
Early this year, McAnally went to Del Mar to show Sid and Jenny Craig more race tapes of another Argentine prospect. The asking price for Candy Ride would be high, McAnally knew, but the Craigs had been known to open their vault before. They paid $2.5 million for Dr Devious, their 1992 English Derby winner.
To get the undefeated Candy Ride, who won his three races in South America by 28 lengths, the Craigs were going to have to spend $900,000.
"That's a lot of money," Sid Craig said Friday, "but I've never seen Ron this excited about a horse before."
He was standing in the winner's circle at Hollywood Park on the Fourth of July, wearing a red-white-and-blue necktie and celebrating Candy Ride's first stakes victory in the U.S., a three-quarter length victory over Special Ring in the $150,000 American Handicap.
Candy Ride has won five in a row overall and earned $124,800 for the Craigs, whose accountants will be pleased to know that bigger days might be ahead. The next race for the 4-year-old colt may be the Pacific Classic, a $1-million pot at Del Mar on Aug. 24.
The Pacific Classic is on dirt and the American was on grass, but Candy Ride seems comfortable with either surface. He went both ways in Argentina, and his prep for the American, a three-length victory at Hollywood Park on June 7, was over the main track.
McAnally's early enthusiasm for Candy Ride -- the trainer feels that the colt's running action is better than Gentlemen's -- has rubbed off on Craig.
"He has the potential to be one of the super horses of all-time," the co-owner said.
Running 1 1/8 miles in 1:46 1/5, the fastest since Labeeb matched the stakes record with a 1:45 3/5 clocking in 1996, favored Candy Ride paid $4. Special Ring was two lengths ahead of Irish Warrior, the third-place finisher.
Gary Stevens, riding Candy Ride for the first time, won the Hollywood Gold Cup and the Pacific Classic with Gentlemen.
"All I can say is, [McAnally] loves this horse," Stevens said. "He came and saw [me], said he had a horse he wanted to win the Pacific Classic with, and this is him. Whatever Ronnie says, goes. That's good enough for me. He's trained a bunch of champions. This horse is very, very special. Right now, I would rate him right on a par with Gentlemen. He is just a particularly gifted horse."
In an earlier stake, Wacky Patty added to a minor stakes victory at Hollywood with a one-length victory over Cherish Destiny in the $100,300 Landalauce. Wacky Patty, ridden by Jose Valdivia, suffered her only loss in four starts after a poor start in the Cinderella Stakes a month ago. Trainer Jim Chapman, who bought Wacky Patty for $16,000 as a yearling and then was unsuccessful in selling her this year when bidding stalled, has Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies aspirations for the filly.
At Belmont Park, trainer Bobby Frankel's barn came away with mixed results: Ridden by Jerry Bailey, Frankel's Aldebaran was a two-length winner over Peeping Tom in the $150,000 Tom Fool Handicap, but Frankel's three-horse entry was unable to stop Snow Dance, a 27-1 longshot, from winning the $250,000 New York Handicap.
Frankel's best finisher was Pertuisane, who was second, a length behind. Belmont's other stake went to House Party, a 3 1/4-length winner over Chimichurri in the $200,000 Prioress.
At Churchill Downs, trainer Wayne Lukas saddled a winner of the Debutante Stakes for a record fifth time when Be Gentle won by 1 1/4 lengths.