10/10/2012 3:58PM

Belmont Park notes: Candy Feat a winning survivor

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Barbara D. Livingston
Much Rejoicing was one of several horses injured in a van accident.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Regardless if he ever won a race, just getting to the starting gate was a victory in itself for Candy Feat.

On Friday, Candy Feat, a 3-year-old son of Hard Spun, goes for his second consecutive victory in a first-level allowance that goes as race 8 at Belmont Park.

On April 18, Candy Feat was one of six horses who were on a horse van traveling from the Palm Meadows training center in Boynton Beach, Fla., to the Fair Hill training center in northeast Maryland, when the van was cut off by another vehicle and then turned over on a rain-slicked highway in South Carolina.

One horse, Orange County, a 3-year-old gelding owned by Anne Paulson, was euthanized immediately. A second horse, Empiricist, was euthanized a few days after arriving at the New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania, where he was diagnosed with broken ribs and a fractured spine.

Empiricist, Candy Feat, and three others were owned by two partnerships managed by Justin Nicholson – AJ Suited Racing Stable and Ninety North Racing. Jimmy Toner trained all five horses.

Candy Feat, Bold Hawk, Crying Lightening, and Much Rejoicing all suffered a certain degree of cuts and burns, but no structural damage. Bold Hawk, an 8-year-old who won the 2007 Hawthorne Derby, was retired.

Candy Feat made it to the races June 6 at Delaware Park, where he finished third in a one-mile turf maiden race. Following third- and seventh-place finishes at Saratoga, Candy Feat was stretched out in distance to 1 1/4 miles at Belmont on Sept. 27, where he won a maiden race by a half-length.

“Really, he’s such a good-natured horse and such a nice horse to be around and everybody likes him,” Toner said. “To see him come back and do what he did, it’s a credit to him.”

Toner said Candy Feat is “one-paced” and the key to his success was stretching him out in distance. The fact Friday’s race is 1 3/8 miles is the reason Toner is running back in 15 days.

“It’s a little close back for him, but when are you going to get that race again at Belmont?” Toner said. “I’ll run him right back and give him a little break.”

Crying Lightening, a 4-year-old filly by Holy Roman Emperor, is winless in four starts since the accident.

Toner said Much Rejoicing, an overnight stakes winner at Belmont last fall, suffered the most serious injuries in the accident. She is, however, expected to make it back to the races before the Belmont fall meet ends Oct. 28.

“To get her back to the races is a miracle in itself,” Toner said. “She had the most physical damage as far as cuts and abrasions and burns and things like that – she was the worst of the group. To see her come back is unbelievable.”

Friend Or Foe nearing return

Friend Or Foe, a multiple stakes-winning New York-bred, also is nearing a return to the races after a layoff of more than a year.

On Tuesday, Friend Or Foe worked five furlongs in 1:01.67 at Belmont, his seventh breeze since resuming training earlier this year. Friend Or Foe had been plagued by suspensory issues and then foot problems.

Though Friend Or Foe is getting close to returning to the races, trainer John Kimmel said the horse would not run in the $250,000 Empire Classic for New York-breds on Oct. 20. Friend Or Foe won the 2010 Empire Classic.

Kimmel said running Friend Or Foe back in a 1 1/8-mile race off the 14-month layoff would be “unfair to him.”

Kimmel said he would look for a mile race early in the Aqueduct meet that he could possibly use as a stepping-stone to the Grade 1 Cigar Mile on Nov. 24 at Aqueduct.

Peace Preserver to Churchill

Peace Preserver, the 6 1/2-length winner of Monday’s $150,000 Pebbles Stakes here, will most likely make her next start in the Grade 3, $175,000 Mrs. Revere Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 17, trainer Todd Pletcher said.

“It’s a graded stakes against 3-year-olds one more time,” Pletcher said.

After two runner-up finishes in stakes, Peace Preserver finally broke through with her first stakes win in the Pebbles. Over yielding turf, Peace Preserver ran a mile in 1:38.40 and earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 96.