Cliff Sise admits he’s looking forward to sending out his first Kentucky Derby starter after coming close to running in America’s most hyped event a few times in his career. He’s just not getting carried away with the experience.
“Right now it’s just like shipping in for a stakes race,” Sise said after training Thursday morning at Churchill Downs. “What happens, happens; if it’s good it’s good. If not, well, we can deal with it.”
Danzing Candy, a son of Twirling Candy that many expect to be the pacesetter for Saturday’s 142nd edition of the Kentucky Derby, will be Sise’s first starter in the Louisville classic. The veteran Southern California-based conditioner came close to making it before, including just last year.
“I’ve come close like four times,” Sise said. “One horse came up with a breathing problem. Then last year Prospect Park came up with a lung infection. He was a serious horse. A mile and a quarter would have been right up his alley. I was also close way back, in like 1994, with Sir Harry Bright. Paying Dues, he was another one. Something happened to him around the time things get serious so he was out.”
Sise thought the above-mentioned horses that came close gave him a decent shot in the past and he thinks the same of Danzing Candy.
After a disastrous maiden race where he broke slow, rushed up, got shut off and tired making a second run, Danzing Candy won three straight. He impressed winning a 7-furlong maiden race during Santa Anita Park’s Opening Day card the day after Christmas, running 1:22.84 in the process.
That victory got Sise thinking about the classics.
“Everybody saw what happened (in his first start) and that’s why he got bet down as the favorite,” Sise said. “Then he beat a nice horse in there (Mr. Coker) and actually ran faster than (the Grade 1 La Brea) the same day. And he did it so easy.”
Danzing Candy clicked off another win in a 1-mile allowance-optional on the lead going two turns in early February before another front-running win over fellow Derby entrants Mor Spirit and Exaggerator in the Grade 2 San Felipe. He raced on the lead again in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in his final prep for Saturday, but Sise said he went too fast and discount’s the colt’s distant fourth behind runaway winner Exaggerator in the slop.
Danzing Candy is expected to be among those vying for the early lead, along with Outwork, champion and morning-line favorite Nyquist.
If the full field entered Wednesday stays intact he and jockey Mike Smith will do it from post No. 20, which has produced just one winner of the Derby in 14 attempts, 2008 winner Big Brown.
Sise isn’t put off by the post.
“It lets us dictate what we want to do,” he said. “All his races he’s always drawn inside of the speed so he’s had to send him. This time if he wants to lay second, on the outside, he shouldn’t have any problem. Nyquist, he has some speed. If I go out and Nyquist lays close we may go too fast. I have to leave that up to the owner, he’s a handicapper. He knows what he’s talking about so I’ll leave it up to him, and to Mike.”
“Mike, he probably wants to put him on the lead, but he can come from off of it, too. He does not need to be on the lead.”