ARCADIA, Calif. (March 12, 2016)—Halo Farms’ front-running Danzing Candy cruised to an impressive two length win under Mike Smith in Saturday’s Grade II, $400,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. Trained by Clifford Sise, the lightly raced Kentucky-bred colt by Twirling Candy got 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.04 and picked up 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, assuring him of a berth in the Run for the Roses on May 7.
“He warmed up great, he was on his toes,” said Smith. “Our game plan was to put him on the lead unless he didn’t jump out of there well. We didn’t want to experiment…I left there very aggressive and he didn’t get away with anything (slow fractions). If you go 22 on this track today, you’re smokin’. And for him to hold off the caliber of horses he held off, was very impressive.”
Bred by Ted Aroney’s Halo Farms and owned by Halo Farms and Jim and Diane Bashor, Danzing Candy paid $13.00, $5.20 and $3.40. A maiden special weight winner two starts back on Dec. 26, Danzing Candy was a 5 ¾ length allowance winner here on Feb. 4 and thus picked up his third win from four starts. With the winner’s share of $240,000, he increased his earnings to $308,650.
“I expected him to be on the lead,” said Sise. “We didn’t want to experiment in this race. Mike just said, ‘I’ll let him come out the first few jumps and if he’s there, he’s there. If somebody sends, he’ll sit second.
“He (broke) much better today. He’s good now. We’ll stay for the Santa Anita Derby (Grade I, $1 million at 1 1/8 miles April 9). He’s three for three on this track. Why would we change now? I don’t see any reason to, but you never know. You’ve got to leave that up to the owners.”
Ridden by Gary Stevens, favored Mor Spirit appeared to get a bit rank around the Club House turn, but settled readily down the backside when next to last going past the half mile pole. With a cue from Stevens, he picked it up between horses around the far turn, rallied well, while within himself for second money and galloped out on terms with the winner past the wire.
Off at 8-5 in a field of six Derby hopefuls, Mor Spirit paid $3.40 and $2.20.
“I’m very happy, because he was way too keen in the early part of the race, he was really fresh…” said Stevens. “He was super sharp. As I was coming into the lane, I knew I wasn’t going to catch the winner, but I knew we had to get some (Kentucky Derby) points. I like where we’re sitting for the Santa Anita Derby. I lost a battle today, but I like our position. Bob (Baffert) was happy, so I’m happy…He’ll settle a little better for me in the Santa Anita Derby.
Exaggerator, who is trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by his brother, Kent, was content to lag early and picked it up in eye-catching fashion heading into the far turn as he skimmed the rail, but he flattened out late, finishing three quarters of length behind Mor Spirit.
The second wagering choice at 2-1, Exaggerator paid $2.40 to show.
With the winner getting 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, the second, third and fourth place finishers earned 20, 10 and five points respectively.
Danzing Candy set fractions of 22.96, 46.11, 1:11.04 and 1:36.38 over a main track that although was listed as fast, had been dulled by heavy afternoon rains on Friday.
MIKE SMITH, DANZING CANDY, WINNER: “He warmed up great, he was on his toes. Our game plan was to put him on the lead unless he didn’t jump out of there well. We didn’t want to experiment. We wanted to play our hand, right off the bat. Let’s go to the lead and if they want to go with us, we’ll be probably be going too fast and if that’s the case, that’s the case. We were going to worry about it next time.
“We did it. I left there very aggressive and he didn’t get away with anything. If you go twenty-two on this track today, you’re smokin’. And for him to hold off the caliber of horses he held off, was very impressive.
“In the mornings we’ve been schooling with him and it doesn’t seem to be bothering him at all. I was pretty impressed with the caliber he showed today and the numbers that he put up. He’s flashy in the afternoon. He’s so easy on himself in the mornings and that’s a good thing. If he was a bit too aggressive in the morning it would probably take its toll on him.
“He’s a big horse. He’s still carrying a lot of flesh on him. There’s room to trim him down as we get closer to the Derby and we’re doing it little by little. He’s handling everything. He’s a big, beautiful horse and he’ll start tucking up as we get closer.
“We don’t do much with him. There’s room to tighten those screws, tighten him up.”
GARY STEVENS, MOR SPIRIT, SECOND: “I’m super happy, because he was way too keen in the early part of the race – he was really fresh, hasn’t run for a while. He was super sharp. As I was coming into the lane, I knew I wasn’t going to catch the winner, but I knew we had to get some (Kentucky Derby) points here. I like where we’re sitting for the Santa Anita Derby. I lost a battle today, but I like our position. Bob (Baffert) was happy, so I’m happy. We got a lot out of today’s race. He’ll settle a little better for me in the Santa Anita Derby.”
CLIFFORD SISE JR., DANZING CANDY, WINNER: “I expected him to be on the lead. We didn’t want to experiment in this race. Mike (Smith) just said, ‘I’ll let him come out the first few jumps and if he’s there, he’s there. If somebody sends, he’ll sit second.
“He left much better today. He’s good now. We’ll stay for the Santa Anita Derby ($1 million, Grade I, 11/8 miles April 9). He’s three for three on this track. Why would we change now? I don’t see any reason to, but you never know. You’ve got to leave that up to the owners.”
BOB BAFFERT, MOR SPIRIT, SECOND: “He ran well. The horse that won is a pretty good horse. I wanted to run first, second or third. He’s coming on. A mile and an eighth will be more to his liking, but he got a lot out of it today. I’m happy with the way he went and we’re learning more about him. He’ll stay here for the Santa Anita Derby.”
KEITH DESORMEAUX, EXAGGERATOR, THIRD: “He ran nice and steady. They were quick the first part of the race. He was sitting chilly and relaxed. I loved the way it set up, but he didn’t finish. I would like to think he’ll move forward off of this. He might be maxing out at a mile, too. That’s what’s going through my mind right now. But we’ll stay here for the Santa Anita Derby, try them again and try and prove me wrong.”
TED ARONEY, PART-OWNER, DANZING CANDY, WINNER: “I won’t make reservations (for the Kentucky Derby May 7) until the last minute! I had Hear the Ghost back in 2013. He won the San Felipe and was the favorite going into the Santa Anita Derby. I made my reservations too early and then we didn’t run (due to a minor knee injury) and they wouldn’t give me my money back! I made my mind up that I won’t be making any reservations this year!
“I’m so excited with the way he ran today. I was disappointed after his first race but then his second and third race showed us how game he is. He gets to the lead and he’s so game. The whole thing today was not to experiment. If you have a speed horse you don’t want to experiment now. He’s got a front-running style that we didn’t want to experiment with and Mike bought into that. If we want to, we’ll leave that for later.”
NOTES: The winning owners are Ted Aroney (Halo Farms) of Carlsbad and Jim and Diane Bashor of La Jolla. The victory was worth 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Second was worth 20; third, 10; and fourth, five.
Source: Santa Anita Park