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Santa Anita Derby could be big opportunity for Holy Candy

The horse, partly owned by the NFL's Drew Brees, needs a win to advance to the Kentucky Derby. But trainer John Sadler might yet bypass Santa Anita's race to enter him in the Blue Grass Stakes.

April 04, 2012|By Larry Stewart
  • A victory in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby would greatly increase that horse's prospects of being selected for the Kentucky Derby in May.
A victory in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby would greatly increase… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Ten horses were entered in Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on Wednesday morning, including one partly owned by Drew Brees.

Holy Candy, a surprise late entry, is owned by breeder Craig Stables, which is headed by Jenny Craig of weight-loss program fame, and Donkey Island Racing, a group that includes the New Orleans Saints quarterback.

But indications later Wednesday were that Holy Candy's trainer, John Sadler, might choose to bypass Santa Anita's historic race and run the horse in the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., on April 14.

Holy Candy has raced only four times, winning once. Whether he runs at Santa Anita or Keeneland, a win is vital in terms of graded stakes earnings for him to advance to the Kentucky Derby.

At least Santa Anita oddsmaker Jon White thinks the son of Candy Ride would have a decent shot at winning the Santa Anita Derby, setting the odds on Holy Candy at 8-1. Holy Candy got the No. 3 post position at Wednesday morning's draw.

Installed as the 6-5 favorite was Creative Cause, who drew the No. 1 post.

Alex Solis Jr., manager of Donkey Island Racing, said Sadler has not made a decision regarding Holy Candy's immediate future.

"Knowing John, he may wait until Friday before making a decision," Solis said.

Holy Candy, who is now stabled at Hollywood Park, finished a close second in his first three races before winning a non-stakes race at Santa Anita on March 23 in impressive fashion.

He was the favorite in all four of his races.

Solis said Brees was brought into the ownership group last summer by Jeff and Bill Strauss, owners of the Pamplemousse Grille, a popular racing hangout adjacent to Del Mar. Jeff Strauss is also the head chef. The brothers became friends of Brees' when he played for the San Diego Chargers. Solis, without being specific, said Brees' stake in the horse is very small.

A victory in the Santa Anita Derby or the Blue Grass would vault the horse into the Churchill Downs spotlight leading into the Kentucky Derby on May 5.

Saturday's 75th running of the Santa Anita Derby, a 11/8-mile race for 3-year-olds, will go off as the sixth race, with a post time of 2:46 p.m. It is part of an 11-race program that includes three other stakes races. The Santa Anita Derby will be part of 11/2 hours of live horse racing on Channel 4, beginning at 1:30.

Creative Cause, the favorite, has never been more than one length behind at the wire in any of his seven starts. His four wins include a victory by three quarters of a length over highly regarded Bodemeister in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on March 10.

Trainer Mike Harrington will run Creative Cause without blinkers for the first time. He said his horse has been training well without them in recent weeks.

The second choice in the Santa Anita Derby at 5-2 is I'll Have Another, who seemed to come out of nowhere to post a victory in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 4. The odds on I'll Have Another in that race were 43-1.

Another horse given 8-1 odds for the Santa Anita Derby was Liaison, one of three Bob Baffert-trainer entries. The others are Paynter, 12-1, and Blueskiesnrainbows, 20-1.

Baffert, who suffered a heart attack March 26 in the United Arab Emirates, was at the racetrack early Wednesday morning but complained of being tired and did not attend the draw breakfast.

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