Candy Man Rocket made his stakes debut a winning one in Saturday’s $200,000 Sam F. Davis S. (G3), holding stablemate Nova Rags safe by a length as Bill Mott-trained runners swept the exacta.
Junior Alvarado was up for owner Frank Fletcher on Candy Man Rocket.
The first of two Kentucky Derby qualifiers at Tampa Bay Downs, the Davis awarded a combined 17 points (10-4-2-1 scale) to the top four finishers.
Candy Man Rocket was exiting a 9 1/4-length maiden romp at Gulfstream Park four weeks earlier, winning over a six-furlong distance in his second career start, and the Candy Ride colt made a seamless transition to two turns.
Off as the 3-1 second choice among 12 runners, Candy Man Rocket completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:44.30.
The dark bay tracked pacesetter Boca Boy until taking command on the far turn, and Candy Rocket Man accelerated into the stretch with a widening advantage. Nova Rags reduced the margin in deep stretch, but he never seriously threatened the winner while settling for second as the 8-1 fourth choice.
Nova Rags was exiting a victory in the seven-furlong Pasco S. at Tampa on Jan. 16.
Hidden Stash rallied late to finish a neck behind in third. It was a few lengths back to Boca Boy in fourth. Next came 3-2 favorite Known Agenda, Lucky Law, Joe Man Joe, Ricochet, Smiley Sobotka, Last Investment, Millean, and Runaway Magic.
Bred in Kentucky by R.S. Evans, Candy Man Rocket passed through the sales ring multiple times before being acquired by Fletcher for $250,000 at the 2020 OBS Spring two-year-old sale. He’s the first stakes conqueror from the Forestry mare Kenny Lane, a half-sister to a pair of stakes winners.