Sidney's Candy towers over San Fernando; Sham and Santa Ynez also on tap
Sidney's Candy established himself as top Kentucky Derby (G1) contender with convincing stakes victories over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), San Felipe S. (G2) and San Vicente S. (G2) last year, but he faltered when trying dirt for the first time at Churchill Downs, experiencing a rough trip from post 20 in the slop. He made a seamless transition to turf two starts later, posting a 5 1/2-length score in the La Jolla H. (G2) at Del Mar, but weakened to sixth when stepping up in class in the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1).
Sadler planned to stick with turf in the Sir Beaufort, but wet weather in Southern California derailed those plans, opening up a new avenue of options for the versatile front runner. Sidney's Candy figures to be an overwhelming favorite with regular rider Joel Rosario in the San Fernando, and another dominant victory Saturday could send him to the $1 million Santa Anita H. (G1) on March 5.
His top challengers include Grade 3 winner THISKYHASNOLIMIT (Sky Mesa), who will stretch back out to two turns following a sixth in the Malibu S. (G1). The Steve Asmussen colt recorded a good second to Lookin at Lucky in his last route start, the October 2 Indiana Derby (G2). INDIAN FIREWATER (Indian Charlie) didn't put up much of a challenge when second in the Sir Beaufort, but the colt shows improving form for Hall of Famer Bob Baffert and will be looking for his 10th straight top-three finish on Saturday. Hollywood Derby (G1) hero HAIMISH HY (Ecton Park) will go turf to dirt for trainer Art Sherman, and stakes winner MAKE MUSIC FOR ME (Bernstein) will be switching to the main track for Alexis Barba.
Four of the five runners in the 1 1/16-mile Sham are exiting maiden wins, including the visually impressive UNCLE SAM (Tapit). Trained by Baffert, the gray ridgling rolled by 2 3/4 lengths when making his career debut on December 27, and he figures to be a solid favorite Saturday with a returning Rafael Bejarano. TAPIZAR (Tapit) and ANTHONY'S CROSS (Indian Charlie) are a couple of promising colts exiting convincing wins at Churchill Downs, with the former scoring by 10 1/2 lengths and the latter by 2 1/2. Both succeeded at Saturday's distance.
CLUBHOUSE RIDE (Candy Ride [Arg]) is the only member of the Sham field with experience against winners, finishing third in the CashCall Futurity (G1) and Delta Jackpot S. (G3) in his last two outings, and the Craig Lewis trainee is a stakes winner on dirt, having captured the Barretts Juvenile at Fairplex Park.
The seven-furlong Santa Ynez features a pair of fillies that were declared from last Saturday's Santa Ysabel S. (G3), PLUM PRETTY (Medaglia d'Oro) and ZAZU (Tapit). Plum Pretty exits a wire-to-wire debut maiden win at Hollywood Park for Baffert, and Moccasin S. runner-up Zazu will look to improve upon a fifth in the December 11 Hollywood Starlet S. (G1) for Sadler. CALIFORNIA NECTAR (Stormy Atlantic) is the most accomplished member of the seven-horse field, winning the December 27 California Breeders' Champion S. over the track last out, and the California-bred filly recorded a decent fourth versus open rivals in the grassy Miesque S. (G3) two starts back for Doug O'Neill.
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