Smile Politely

Candy’s comeback

Twirling CandySomewhere this past Monday, Twirling Candy was smiling.

Though Twirling Candy wasn’t present this past Memorial Day for the Grade III Lone Star Park Handicap, his rival, Game on Dude, was on hand to finish behind the valiant Awesome Gem. After the race, jockey Martin Garcia lodged a claim of foul against the winner, but the stewards disallowed the complaint, and Game on Dude had to settle for his third-place finishing. One start earlier, it had been a totally different story for Game on Dude.

In what could be called the bumper car edition of the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, Game on Dude won the race after avoiding a call for disqualification with jockey Chantal Sutherland aboard. After an inquiry that lasted 12 minutes, the stewards ruled 2-1 in favor of leaving up the winner; consequently, the first woman jockey ever to win the historic race was met with boos upon entering the winner’s circle.  

To say that Twirling Candy had a ‘troubled trip’ in the Santa Anita Handicap is a gross understatement. Going off as the 1-2 favorite, Twirling Candy became rank before he could even reach the first turn when he was shuffled back behind horses by First Dude, but the real fracas began when the field came around the final turn for home. Under Joel Rosario, the colt rounded the turn between Setsuko on the outside and Game on Dude on the inside. At the precise moment Twirling Candy began to make a move between the two, Victor Espinoza hit Setsuko on the right side, and the horse came in and bumped Twirling Candy. Joel Rosario straightened out Twirling Candy, and that’s when Chantal Sutherland hit Game on Dude from the left side and sent her horse slamming into Twirling Candy. This hit was so hard, Twirling Candy flew into Setsuko, then bounced off him and back into Game on Dude before backing off to finish an uncharacteristic fifth place. Both times Game on Dude slammed into Twirling Candy, Chantal’s horse was tipped at an angle and nearly lost his footing. The race ended up with Setsuko and Game on Dude battling neck-and-neck to the wire, with Game on Dude re-rallying to win. That Setsuko wasn’t given the victory after the inquiry is a real head-scratcher, to put it mildly. Admittedly, this writer had a few choice words that lasted the rest of the week about the result, and burned me so badly, I didn’t want to talk about horse racing or watch another race for the next week.

So who could really blame Twirling Candy for being a little happy that Game on Dude lost the Lone Star Handicap, and then had his inquiry ignored? Karma is a bitch, as they say. Now, this Saturday, Twirling Candy will try to put this mess behind him and reclaim his rightful spot as the leader in the older horse division when he enters the $150,000 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park. Let’s hope he stays as far away from Setsuko as possible, who has also not run since that infamous Big Cap battle. At 1 1/8-miles on the main track, the Californian is the prep race for the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup next month. For the first time, Twirling Candy will run without blinkers. His trainer, John Sadler, is hoping this difference will ease the horse’s nerves, and hopefully keep him from getting rank during the race. Another horse to watch out for is Gladding, the winner of the San Antonio Stakes who is also trained by Sadler, but he may not run after  drawing the post next to Twirling Candy, who is on the rail.

Might, the full sister to Blame and handled by the same connections, will be making her stakes debut in the Grade III Dogwood Stakes at Churchill Downs this Saturday. Last time out, Might won an allowance optional claiming race on Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill by 4 ¾ lengths.

Grade I winner Rail Trip will be making his return to the races in the Easy Goer Stakes this Sunday at Belmont, his first start since finishing 5th in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last year. While the race has only drawn five entries, the field includes Mission Impazible, a formidable foe if there ever was one.

The Grade III Dogwood Stakes will post at approximately at 4:59pm ET at Churchill Downs and air live on HRTV.

The Californian Stakes will post at approximately at 7:38pm ET at Hollywood Park and air live on TVG.

The Easy Goer Stakes will post Sunday at approximately 2:04 ET at Belmont and air live on HRTV and TVG.

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