Mile: Sidney’s Candy sweet in Fourstardave

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Elliott Walden laughed at the difference between Sidney’s Candy in the morning and Sidney’s Candy in the afternoon. “He worked faster than he ran,” Walden said. “He went three quarters in 1:14, he went in 1:09 the other day.”

Something like that.

On July 24, WinStar Farm’s recent purchase Sidney’s Candy breezed 5 furlongs in 57.60 seconds, convincing his connections to run him on the turf in Sunday’s Fourstardave. Eight days later, Sidney’s Candy went to the lead in the Grade II stakes, going a half in 50.49 and three-quarters in 1:14.35 on his way to an easy win over Moryba and Beau Choix. Owned by WinStar Farm and Rubio B Stable, the son of Candy Ride finished 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.25 to pick up his seventh victory in 14 career starts.

Purchased by his present connections after finishing second in the Grade II American Handicap on the turf at Hollywood Park, Sidney’s Candy moved from John Sadler’s California barn to Pletcher’s Belmont barn.

Sidney’s Candy hid nothing in his career, winning graded stakes on the dirt, synthetic and the turf, all accomplished choke-out from the start. Pletcher got the horse this summer and waited for the bomb.

“He’s actually more settled than we anticipated. The first time we breezed him we didn’t know what to expect, we said, ‘wow, he’s pretty kind, he can do that in company,’ ” Pletcher said. “Everything has gone even easier than I expected; the first time we breezed him by himself, very relaxed, breezed him again, relaxed, put him in company, relaxed. You want to make sure you don’t make any mistakes along the way and he made the job pretty easy.”

Pletcher and Walden were faced with a tough decision on where to begin an East Coast campaign; dirt, turf, short or long. Sidney’s Candy worked well on the dirt but when introduced to the Oklahoma turf July 24, the decision was made.

“Usually you get a horse at his age, he’s a sprinter, he’s a dirt horse, he’s a turf horse, whatever,” Pletcher said. “With him he’s run well on all three surfaces and at difference distances, it’s trying to figure out what you want to do with him. This one, you’re thinking, should we look at the Vanderbilt three-quarters on the dirt? the Whitney going a mile and a quarter? the Fourstardave going a mile and a sixteenth on the dirt? The main thing we wanted to do was to get off to a good start and win a race with him.”

Mission accomplished.

John Velazquez guided Sidney’s Candy from the fifth stall to gain a comfortable lead, doling out the first quarter in 25.83 seconds. It got easier from there. Sidney’s Candy lobbed on the lead, felt some pressure from Moryba and others at the top of the stretch, kicked clear to win by a little over a length in what was published as a race but looked more like a procession.

“Obviously he got away with pedestrian fractions, but the thing I liked about it was that the horse was very settled and he finished up well and over a turf course that probably had a little more cut to it than he’s used to,” Pletcher said. “Sometimes the hardest ones to win are the ones you’re supposed to win so you don’t take anything for granted. Off his breeze the other day, I was pretty confident.”

Sidney’s Candy began his career, dominating California’s 3-year-old contingent last spring. Leading every step of the way, he rattled off wins in the Grade II San Vicente, Grade II San Felipe and Grade I Santa Anita Derby. He came to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby as a legitimate contender. That legitimacy took a hit when he drew the outside post in the field of 20 and it further eroded when he pulled Joe Talamo through tough fractions. He was finished after a mile. Regrouped, he finished second in the Grade II Swaps and won the Grade II La Jolla before taking a crack at the Breeders’ Cup Mile where he faded to sixth after leading the whole way. He won one of his next three starts before being purchased by WinStar Farm and Rubio B for a stallion career at the end of the season. Rubio B, an Argentina-based stud farm, will stand the son of Argentine great Candy Ride during the southern hemisphere season.

Gavin Murphy, managing partner of SF Bloodstock and a partner in the horse, looked at Sidney’s Candy as a must-have stallion prospect and a must-see racing prospect.

“It’s a great thrill, it’s a relief too. We’ve always liked the horse but until he actually does it for you . . . ” Murphy said. “We’re invested in a few horses, including some with WinStar, for us, it’s just part of a program we’re building, WinStar is a very good partner, if they’re excited about a horse, we often are too. He’d already done a lot as a stallion prospect and we felt like he still had the rest of the year to run out and we thought he was rounding into form so we’re excited to what’s next.”

Sent off the 1-4 favorite, Sidney’s Candy ticked his career earnings to more than $1 million with the victory and gave his connections a stakes book full of options.

“It’s exciting, but when you’re 1-5, it’s more relief, “Elliott Walden said. “It’s a bonus, we felt like coming back east, he could use his speed here and maybe win another Grade I. He’s so versatile. We’ll talk to Todd but anything’s on the table, races like the Forego, or something going one-turn at Belmont, there are lot of options.”