02/05/2011 9:31PM

Best horse in America


“This is sensational!”

Track announcer Trevor Denman said it while Twirling Candy was drawing away by four and one-half lengths Saturday in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes at Santa Anita.

Twirling Candy stamped himself as the best older horse in the country with a devastating 1:46.53 mile and one-eighth. The Beyer Figure should come back somewhere around 107. (Twirling Candy earned a 101 Beyer.)

As if it matters.

Twirling Candy pulled jockey Joel Rosario out of the saddle throughout. When Rosario shook the reins at the top of the lane, Twirling Candy was gone.

This is the same Twirling Candy that broke Spectacular Bid’s track record for seven furlongs Dec. 26 by racing home in 1:19.70.

Twirling Candy has sprint speed. And, he can carry his speed a distance.

Trainer John Sadler described 6-for-7 Twirling Candy as “a natural.”

Regardless of what transpires Sunday in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes, Twirling Candy is the favorite for Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on March 5.

He is more than that.

Twirling Candy is the best horse in the country.

# Meanwhile, superstar status is hereby postponed for the good 3-year-old filly Turbulent Descent. On Saturday, she lost the one-mile Grade 1 Las Virgenes by a length and one-quarter to relatively unheralded Zazu.

Zazu, trained by Sadler, took advantage of a weight break, a ground-saving trip, and recent racing. Zazu made her most recent start three weeks ago on Jan. 15.

Turbulent Descent carried five pounds more (122-117), raced three- and four-wide throughout, and was starting for the first time since Dec. 11.

“She probably got a little tired. She hasn’t run in eight weeks,” Turbulent Descent’s trainer Mike Puype said.

The insane pace (:44.25 and 1:08.77) set it up for closers Zazu and Turbulent Descent. The final time of 1:34.86 should translate to a Beyer Figure in the neighborhood of 93. (Zazu earned an 88 Beyer.) 

Zazu is a nice filly, now with two wins from six starts. Yet last fall at Hollywood, Zazu was no match for Turbulent Descent, who twice toyed with Zazu.

Perhaps expectations were too high Saturday for Turbulent Descent. She probably needed the out. This much is certain – the first loss by Turbulent Descent sets up an interesting rematch March 5 in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks.

If Turbulent Descent is as good in March as she was in December, the Oaks is a race she should win.

# It never made any sense trainer Humberto Ascanio, former longtime assistant to the late Bobby Frankel, would go winless this long. Going into the weekend, Ascanio had not won a race since Dec. 27, 2009. That was 46 starts ago.

Few questioned whether or not Ascanio can train a good horse. As top assistant for Frankel, Ascanio has trained many good horses. That’s why the drought was bizarre. But a wrong was made right Saturday when Ascanio-trained Fluke and Proudinsky finished one-two in the Grade 3 Thunder Road Handicap.

“It’s been a rough road,” Ascanio said after the mile turf race.

The Thunder Road is a prep race for the Grade 1 Kilroe Mile on March 5. Now that Ascanio has the monkey off his back, he can go back to normal trainer worries. That might include finding a new jockey for Fluke, who was ridden flawlessly Saturday by Joe Talamo.

Problem is, Talamo happens to the regular rider for the top turf miler in California. That is Caracortado, and he is the horse to beat in the Kilroe.