08/30/2004 11:00PM

Attempted comeback by Candy Ride called off

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If a deal is finalized, Candy Ride will stand at Hill 'n' Dale in Kentucky.

DEL MAR, Calif. - After valiantly trying to get Candy Ride back to the races for the past 12 months, trainer Ron McAnally on Monday waved the white flag. He announced that Candy Ride had been retired from racing and would go to stud next year in Kentucky.

"I feel for all purposes he'd be better off at stud," McAnally said at his Del Mar barn. "It looks like he'll be going to John Sikura at Hill 'n' Dale Farm. We're drawing up the papers now."

Candy Ride is owned by Sid and Jenny Craig.

"We have had detailed discussions with the Craigs, and we have a deal in principle," said Hill 'n' Dale owner John Sikura, adding that no paperwork for the horse had been signed. "I fully expect to do a deal when the horse moves to Kentucky. The Craigs have been adamant that they would not sell any part of the horse until he retired and moved to Kentucky."

Candy Ride scored the biggest victory of his career last year at Del Mar in the Pacific Classic. But he was taken out of training soon thereafter, and had several comeback attempts aborted this year. McAnally two weeks ago said Candy Ride had had recurring soft-tissue injuries on the outside of his left front ankle.

Candy Ride is at Del Mar, and in fact was out on the track Monday morning for a routine gallop. But he is at least two months away from a race, and that was far from a certainty, considering his interrupted schedule this year.

"I'd have to start really bearing down on him now, and that means he wouldn't run until October or November," McAnally said. "It doesn't make sense to risk missing another breeding season. He's already missed one year at stud this year. He's too valuable not to give him a chance at stud. This is the best decision for all concerned."

Candy Ride won all six of his starts in his brief but dazzling career. He won three races in his native Argentina, including two Group 1 races, before being purchased by McAnally on behalf of the Craigs.

McAnally boldly predicted months before the 2003 Pacific Classic that Candy Ride would win Del Mar's biggest and richest race.

Candy Ride picked up in the United States right where he left off in Argentina. He won his first two starts in this country, including the American Handicap on the turf at Hollywood Park, before his overpowering victory in the Pacific Classic, in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 123.

"He's as good a horse as I've ever trained," McAnally said.

Candy Ride, a son of Ride the Rails and the Candy Stripes mare Candy Girl, earned $749,149.

McAnally said Candy Ride would continue to be trained lightly at Del Mar until he heads to Kentucky. McAnally said he has to take Candy Ride to the track every morning "because if I kept him in his stall, he'd tear the barn down."

- additional reporting by Glenye Cain