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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 12:00 AM

PREPPING FOR THE DERBY - 2014

Volume V...Number 6
February 13, 2014

FINAL TIMES AND FRACTIONS ARE INTERESTING - DID WE JUST SEE A TOP NOTCH 3-YEAR OLD WIN THE LEWIS? ROBERT B. LEWIS WINNER CANDY BOY COULD BE A TREAT

Some consider the Sham Stakes (run January 11) to be the first of the Santa Anita Derby Prep series that has a huge impact on the Kentucky Derby pecking order but last Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis more readily begins the series that continues with the San Felipe Stakes, March 8 and the Santa Anita Derby on April 5. But regardless of where you pin the start to the Santa Anita series it is worth considering that the Robert B. Lewis might have just given us a peak at a trio of very good three-year olds, especially the winning colt Candy Boy.

Is it early? Of course it is. Can anything and everything better and worse happen between now and the Kentucky Derby? The question answers itself. But given what we just saw on the part of Candy Boy, Chitu and even slightly disappointing third place finishing favorite Midnight Hawk in the Lewis, we just might have a very nice crop of 3-year olds this year.

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When Gary Stevens asked Candy Boy to break off from his stalking position behind Diamond Bachelor, Chitu and Midnight Hawk as those three left the far turn and entered the stretch the long striding son of Candy Ride easily swung three wide, measured the opposition and rove to a clear victory in 1:41 4/5 for the mile and a sixteenth race.

Stevens couldn’t stop talking after the race. "The gallop-out was huge today and I was already thinking about the Santa Anita Derby as we were galloping out around the turn. It was a lot of fun and he didn’t even take a deep breath after the race. He’s a super talent." The jockey also chimed in with more. "I’ve been up for his last five works and we haven’t really squeezed the trigger yet."

Of course many jockeys on many a developing three-year old over the course of many a year have echoed the same sentiments. But the connections were just as high on the performance. Both trainer John Sadler and Stevens were blown away by the time of the race...Candy Boy completed the course in 1:41 4/5.
Generally we don’t dwell on how "fast" a race was as much as how tactically speedy the winning horse was. But there is a lot to consider this time around given that final time.

Last year we made much about how slow many of the early preps were and how all three Triple Crown races were run in some of the slowest times in recent memory. We also wrote on more than a few occasions how the times of the prep races at the same distances over the same race tracks were significantly slower than corresponding times by even mid-level older horses.

Let us repeat, yes it is still early, but by using that same comparative three-year old vs older horses speed/time barometer this past Saturday we are comfortable saying that we might be looking at a very good crop of 3-year olds in 2014.

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In addition to the Robert B. Lewis on Saturday the Santa Anita program also featured the Grade II San Antonio Stakes for older horses. It is that race, run a sixteenth longer at 9 furlongs that provides the interesting barometer.

Below are the fractions (calls) run by the pace setter in each race...followed by the winner.

San Antonio
Fractions - :22 3/5...:46 1/5...1:10...1:35 1/5...1:47 4/5
Winner - :23 4/5...:47 3/5...1:10 4/5...1:35 1/5...1:47 4/5

Robert B. Lewis
Fractions - :23 1/5...:46 4/5...1:10 4/5...1:35 3/5...1:41 4/5
Winner - :23 3/5...:47 1/5...1:11 1/5...1:35 4/5...1:41 4/5

Even if we set aside pace makes the race those numbers line up very favorably on Candy Boy’s ledger. His opening quarter was a full 6 lengths faster than that of the 5-year old Blingo, who pulled the upset of odds-on Game On Dude who was a disappointing fifth. His half mile was faster and after Candy Boy continued to cruise through the third quarter (remember, Stevens said the colt wasn’t even pushing himself) the Lewis winner ran the fourth quarter in :24 3/5 compared to Blingo’s fourth quarter in :24 2/5. The splits for the final stage were also comparable as Candy Boy finished in 6 flat for the sixteenth while Blingo ran the final quarter in :12 3/5.

Furthermore, we can indeed go back to last year and simply look at the comparisons of the San Antonio winner (Game On Dude) and the Lewis winner (Flashback) each of whom went virtually wire-to-wire and compare their times in their respective races.

Game On Dude - :23 1/5...:46 3/5...1:10 2/5...1:35...1:47 2/5
Flashback - :24...:48 3/5...1:12...1:36...1:42 4/5

Obviously there is quite a discrepancy. The final stage alone is worth noting when compared to this year. Whereas both Blingo and Candy Boy were traveling at the same rate during their final stage, Game On Dude finished the last furlong in :12 2/5 whereas Flashback got the final sixteenth in :6 4/5 projected out to :13 3/5 at best.

Taking it one final step, take a look at the comparisons of 2012 San Antonio winner Game On Dude and Robert B. Lewis winner I’ll Have Another.

Game On Dude - :23...:45 4/5...1:09...1:33 4/5...1:46 4/5
I’ll Have Another - :23 2/5...:47...1:10 2/5...1:34 2/5...1:40 4/5

In 2012 I’ll Have Another of course went on to win the Kentucky Derby and his comparative times to Game On Dude that year were much more representative than those of 2013’s comparisons. And even though Candy Boy didn’t run as fast this year as I’ll Have Another did in 2012, neither did the 2014 San Antonio winner run as fast a time as Game On Dude did in 2012, which probably reflects on the overall speed of all main track runners on the day.
Certainly this is all subjective but these are real enough numbers to make Candy Boy well worth following as the Santa Anita series moves forward on the Road To the Derby.

We’ll return to these pages Friday afternoon as we preview the two Derby Preps that earn points towards qualification, the Grade III El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate on Saturday and the Grade III Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn on Monday. In addition, although participants in Sunday’s Grade II San Vicente at Santa Anita on Sunday will not earn points towards the Derby it does offer an opportunity for late developers to earn a place on the Derby Road as well as give solid sprinters a chance at a piece of a $2000,000 purse so is worth reviewing as well.

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