July 22, 2024

Ollie’s Candy digs deep in Clement L. Hirsch Stakes

Ollie's Candy winning the 2019 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar (c) Benoit Photo

by J. Keeler Johnson

By all accounts, Ollie’s Candy should not have prevailed in Sunday’s $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar.

The four-year-old daughter of Candy Ride was switching from dirt to turf. She was racing on the front end instead of employing her usual stalking/closing tactics. She was facing a small but high-class field with two Grade 1 winners among her five rivals. And after dueling for the lead through solid fractions of :23.05 and :46.68, Ollie’s Candy kicked for home seemingly too soon, opening up a three-length lead through six furlongs in 1:11.32.

But such logic fails to account for heart and determination, two intangibles which Ollie’s Candy clearly has in abundance. After being headed by Beholder Mile (G1) winner Secret Spice at the top of the homestretch, Ollie’s Candy resiliently battled back under urging from jockey Kent Desormeaux to win by a hard-fought head.

“I was just letting her do her thing; reins were dangling,” said Desormeaux. “At the quarter pole I picked her up and she did the rest. She came again (in the lane). That other mare (Secret Spice) got in front of us, but my mare is a fighter. She wants to win.”

Ollie’s Candy stopped the clock for 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.66. Despite slowing down through the homestretch over a tiring track, Ollie’s Candy and Secret Spice finished 5 1/4 lengths clear of the recent Santa Maria Stakes (G2) winner La Force, with two-time Grade 1 winner Paradise Woods checking in fourth after a slow start.

Trainer John Sadler conditions Ollie’s Candy for owners Paul and Karen Eggert, who also bred the two-time graded stakes winner. As a three-year-old in 2018, Ollie’s Candy was trained by Bill Morey, Jr. and demonstrated high-class form on both dirt and turf, winning the Summertime Oaks (G2) and placing second in the Del Mar Oaks (G1).

“She is a really nice filly who ran in some big races here last year for Bill Morey Jr.,” said Sadler. “She came my way in really good shape and I’ve just kind of carried on for what he did last year.”

Sadler initially campaigned Ollie’s Candy on turf, but following a runner-up effort in the Wilshire Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita, he elected to switch the filly back to dirt.

“She ran a good race her last start at Santa Anita, came down here and had a bullet work over the track, which showed me she had an affinity for the dirt. A lot of Candy Rides can run on any surface.”

The progeny of Candy Ride might be versatile, but with two graded stakes victories from two starts on dirt, it seems clear Ollie’s Candy has found her home on the main track. And by defeating accomplished rivals in the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes – a “Win & You’re In” qualifier for the November 2 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at Santa Anita – Ollie’s Candy has emerged as a potential contender for year-end championship honors.

Not bad for an evening’s work at Del Mar!