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.

Captain Bodgit More than 1 year ago
That Strub field was very weak. Let's not get carried away.
Myoldnags More than 1 year ago
Twirling Candy is a thrill to watch if you like watching NW3X horses running in what is disguised as a Grade 2. Looks like Sadler will model himself after Shirreffs and run this horse against the weak stock in California and then claim he should be HOY because of all the graded stakes he's won. Gee, all this sounds familiar. However, having said that, there wasn't much in the Donn that impressed me either. Let's hope some older horses come out of the woodwork to make this division appear to have some strength.
Captain Bodgit More than 1 year ago
I agree, we did see the best horse in America Saturday. Giant Oak. Big Drama second best.
dc More than 1 year ago
Giant Oak is good, but Successful Dan was ridden by a blind man in the Clark and still won the race easily. Successful Dan is the best horse ... he also can run on any surface, but his favorite is Churchill Downs.
Vito More than 1 year ago
Is it possible for you to write a paragraph that has more than two sentences and doesn't sound like a stump speech?
GunBow More than 1 year ago
Maybe the top Eastern handicap horses should come out West for the Big 'Cap? Is there a Grade 1, $750,000 handicap race at the classic distance of 10 furlongs back East during the next few months? And Easterners can't use synthetics as an excuse to not come out for the Big 'Cap.
Telfe More than 1 year ago
Another California fluke running against weak fields. Come East and prove it, best horse in the country!
Bob McManus More than 1 year ago
I left the track early Saturday. Thanks to calracing.com, I got the replay and am now a believer. Rosario hardly asked, and I wonder what he could have done if pressed. Twirling Candy's biggest problem seems to be getting stiff competition.
mikem More than 1 year ago
Some/most horses can only get fit running in a race. There is only so much you can do in the morning.
GunBow More than 1 year ago
I have always thought Twirling Candy has the talent to be the best horse in the country. The questions were with his mind(relaxing before and during a race) and with stamina. Twirling Candy certainly did everything right in the Strub, however for anyone to state definitively that he is, right now, the best horse in America is speculation. He may turn out to be the best horse in the country, but he certainly hasn't accomplished enough to warrant such a distinction. This was also my opinion at this time last year after many were handing Quality Road the Horse of the Year after the Donn. Twirling Candy clearly has talent, and I've been touting him personally since his allowance comeback during the spring-summer meet at Hollywood. However, the skeptics are correct to point out that he has never won a truly unrestricted stakes race; he, and stablemate Sidney's Candy, have basically taken turns beating up on a weak group of now 4-year-old males. In the one route race when he faced legit Grade 1 competition, the Goodwood, he faltered late and was passed by Richard's Kid, Crown of Thorns and Dakota Phone. Unless a few Eastern horses come out, the Big 'Cap field does not look like it's coming up that strong. Yet, I do think someone in the field is going to make Twirling Candy answer the metaphorical question at the top of lane, whether that horse be Game on Dude, Gladding, Soul Candy or another "distance" horse. There's a good chance Twirling Candy answers the challenge with a shrug and wins off like Tiznow, but there's also the chance he tires himself out by being rank early and fades the final sixteenth. As a fan looking for greatness, I hope for the former, but I wouldn't bet all my money on it. As for Turbulent Descent, the fact is she hasn't been particularly explosive around 2 turns. I'll give her another chance, but my expectations are certainly much lower now.