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.

Sammy More than 1 year ago
I think you just made the case that the Santa Anita Handicap is an overhyped race.
todd saunders More than 1 year ago
dear mike: i understand the idea behind this, but think some things need to be pointed out to keep things in perspective: first, twirling candy has made far fewer starts than most on this list had by the time they reached the big cap and won it. 2nd, twirling candy just started racing on dirt, and those 2 races were as visually impressive as they get. additionally, the beyer for the strub is patently absurd, and one only look at last year's Donn handicap for comparison. Quality Road beat a suspect field, on a speed laden track, one which he excelled on in the past, and won for fun. the Strub by TC was equally as impressive, and nearly as fast, yet his beyer looks like he is a 30 claimer compared to QR. i would also point out that the number of beyer speed figures that top 110, out west, are few and far between, and likely will not happen often if at all. it is just a fact that no matter what happens, TC will probably get anywhere from a 102-108 beyer when he wins tomorrow, whether he wins by 2 or 8, and goes in 58 and change for a mile and a quarter.
GunBow More than 1 year ago
What makes Tiznow's stats more remarkable is that he did that all in just 15 starts. After his first 4 starts, Tiznow ran 11 straight beyers of 105+ to conclude his career, with 7 figs of 110+. No wonder he's a Hall of Famer. The stats also show just what a consistently good horse Lava Man was. Lava Man might not be an all-timer, but he did post consistently solid Beyers and his accomplishments(7 gr.1s) were simply outstanding. Lava Man: Won 3 Hollywood Gold Cups Won 2 Big Caps Swept the Big Cap, Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic in 06' Won gr.1s on dirt, turf, and synthetic When Milwaukee Brew won his 2nd Big Cap in 03', alot of people had trouble putting him alongside John Henry as the only two horses to have done so(Lava Man since joined them). However, looking at the stats above, Milwaukee Brew wasn't a bad horse at all. Of course, he was no John Henry, but he also wasn't Urgent Request(95' Big Cap winner) or Stuka(94' winner). And finally, it should be kept in mind that 04' winner Southern Image accomplished all that he did in only 8 starts. So, that is 3 gr.1 wins in 8 starts(and a brutal nose loss in the 04' Stephen Foster conceding weight), 5 Beyers of 105+ in 8 starts, and 3 Beyers of 110+ in 8 starts. I really felt that Southern Image was on his way to becoming a serious, serious horse.
GunBow More than 1 year ago
Thanks Mike: I always have fun with exercises like these. The first Big Cap I saw in person was in 1992, won by Best Pal. It remains the best Big Cap I've seen. Best Pal crushed a field that included gr.1 winners like Twilight Agenda, In Excess, Defensive Play, and Ibero, ran 1:59 flat, and earned a 123 Beyer. Best Pal(1992)- 6 other gr.1 wins(if include the then ungraded 91' Pacific Classic), 6 other lower graded stakes wins. In terms of Beyers, the source I'm using only has Beyers from 92 onwards. However, I remember most of Best Pal's 91' Beyers from the Racing Times. Beyers of 105 or higher: 15 However, I believe his figs in 91' for the San Rafael, Santa Anita Derby, Swaps, Pacific Classic, and Cal Cup Classic were all over 105. Including these- Beyers of 105 or higher: 20 Beyers of 110 or higher: 10 If include the 91' Swaps(112?), and 91' Pacific Classic(118?)- Beyers of 110 or higher: 12 Top Beyers: 123, 121, 121, 119, 118, 117