03/04/2011 12:44PM

Twirling Candy and the Winners of the Last 10 Big Caps

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Even if Twirling Candy wins Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap as expected, and does so in decisive fashion as most anticipate, he still has work to do to equal or surpass certain career achievements of most of the winners of the last 10 runnings of the Big Cap. In some cases, he has lots of work to do.

That might come as a surprise, for two reasons: First, with the exception of Tiznow, the names of the eight horses who accounted for the last 10 Big Caps (Lava Man and Milwaukee Brew each accounted for two Santa Anita Handicaps in the last decade) don’t quite ring like a list of racing’s all time greats. Combine that with the fact that, many, myself included, consider Twirling Candy to be the best horse in the U.S. at this moment, and you can see why this might be a bit of a surprise.

There are, of course, numerous ways to measure the career accomplishments for a group of horses like the one we’re talking about here. What I decided on for the purposes of this exercise was four categories: Number of career Grade 1 wins beside the Big Cap, combined number of career Grade 2 and 3 stakes wins, number of Beyer Speed Figures earned of 105 and higher, and number of career Beyer Figures of 110 and higher.

Misremembered (2010 Santa Anita Handicap winner) – No other career Grade 1 wins beyond the Big Cap; two other graded stakes wins; no career Beyers of 105 or higher.

Einstein (2009) – Four other career Grade 1 victories; two additional lower graded stakes scores; four career Beyers of 105 or higher, though none were 110 or higher.

Heetseaker (2008) – No other career Grade 1 wins; two other graded stakes victories; Four Beyers higher than 105, two of which were 110.

Lava Man (2006 and 2007) – Five other career Grade 1 wins; two other lower graded stakes scores; 13 career Beyers of 105 or higher, four of which were higher than 110, with one of them being a 120, the highest career Beyer of any of the horses in this discussion.

Rock Hard Ten (2005) – One other Grade 1 win; three other lower graded stakes wins; four career Beyers higher than the 105 mark, one of which was higher than 110.

Southern Image (2004) – Two other career Grade 1 scores, but no other graded stakes wins; five Beyers higher than 105, three of which were 110 or higher.

Milwaukee Brew (2002 and 2003) – No other Grade 1 wins; three other lower graded stakes victories; nine career Beyers higher than 105, with seven of them being 110 or higher.

Tiznow (2001) – Three other career Grade 1 wins, two of them being consecutive scores in the Breeders’ Cup Classic; three other lower graded stakes victories; 11 career Beyers of 105 or higher, all coming in consecutive starts, with seven of them being 110 or higher.

Twirling Candy certainly has lots of time and opportunity to expand his career resume. But for purposes of comparison, here is where he stands going into Saturday’s Big Cap – One other career Grade 1 victory; two other lower graded stakes scores; one career Beyer higher than 105, but that Beyer was not reach the 110 mark.