04/27/2016 9:08AM

Bergman: Candy Corn Hanover looks for sweet result in Miss Pennsylvania

Curtis Salonick
Candy Corn Hanover is undefeated in three lifetime starts.

Trainers of standardbreds have to make difficult decisions all of the time. Assessing talent is perhaps the single most important attribute a trainer must possess.

Travis Alexander, a 37-year-old horseman with a solid history of racing horses at the highest level when he was the conditioner for Fashion Farms, had to make a choice whether to put the unbeaten sophomore filly Candy Corn Hanover in Sunday’s $30,000 Weiss Series final or step up in class and face the top fillies in North America in Saturday’s first ever Miss Pennsylvania eliminations at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Alexander chose the tougher path.

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“Up until last night (Sunday) I was thinking about it,” said Alexander. “But this filly is getting better and better each week. When I first started with her, I took her hopples in just to keep her safe. After her last race I’ve let them out a couple of holes.”

A filly by Dragon Again, purchased for $57,000 by Fiddlers Creek Stable, the nom de course of Leslie & Mark Wasserman, Candy Corn Hanover has advanced quickly this season as a 3-year-old winning each of her three starts and improving with each one.

“She was very athletic,” said Alexander. “The first time I hooked her to a bike she did a somersault. It was something I kind of wish someone had videotaped, because it would have gotten a lot of hits.”

Candy Corn Hanover trained down to 2:10 as a juvenile but around June Alexander told the owners that he didn’t think she was going to make it.

“They were great about it,” said Alexander. “They just said turn her out and bring her back next year.”

The Support of the Wassermans has been key to the Alexander operation. He has trained for them for the past eight years and currently has 16 of their horses in his care.

Candy Corn Hanover has come along quickly this year, forcing her trainer’s hand just a tad to move into the big leagues.

Alexander did notice that his filly, though landing post three in the first of three $20,000 eliminations, managed to draw into the toughest division.

“There’s four of the top fillies in North America in the field with her,” said Alexander. “But I’m actually all right with that. She’s going to have to face these kind of horses whether now or in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes.”

Wedged in post three to Candy Corn Hanover’s outside is last year’s champion, Pure Country, also unbeaten during her career with 10 victories during her freshman campaign. To her inside is Newborn Sassy, an eight-time winner in 10 starts last year including a victory in the Matron at Dover.

“She’s raced with earplugs in every start and I haven’t put a string on them yet,” said Alexander, quite careful and concerned about getting his filly more aggressive on the racetrack than necessary, especially in the early stages of her development.

“Marcus Miller drove her in the qualifiers and really liked her,” said Alexander. “He told me she was a filly that would pace in :53, :52 and :51. Unfortunately the first race we entered her, Erv (Marcus’s dad) had a horse in the race.”

“Matt (Kakaley) did a great job with her in her first start. She came up the inside and actually jumped over the finish line,” said Alexander of the 1:53 2/5 maiden-breaker on April 3.

Candy Corn Hanover steamrolled a field off cover in her next start but won by a scant nose on April 17 in a Weiss leg.

“She was cross-firing badly in that race. I probably should have changed her shoes before that race,” said Alexander, who has since made the adjustment.

“She’s extremely powerful,” said Alexander, who admitted that he liked the fact that she looked more like Artsplace (her dam-sire) than sire Dragon Again.

Alexander likely will have a solid chance of reaching the Miss Pennsylvania final with I Said Please, a daughter of Well Said that drew into the second division, a six-filly field with a little less star power than the first.

Though a winner just twice in eight starts last year, Alexander was buoyed by her effort in the Three Diamonds at The Meadowlands last November.

“Anthony (Napolitano) had to grab her up in the stretch without room. When she found space she had pace. She wasn’t that far off from finishing second,” Alexander said of the fourth-place finish.

An impressive winner in her 3-year-old debut at Pocono, Alexander couldn’t get her back in and sent her to Harrah’s Philadelphia for her second start. “Matt (Kakaley) was supposed to drive her but he was driving at Yonkers that night and couldn’t do both,” said Alexander. “Dave Miller drove her and he was very happy with the way she raced.”

I Said Please grinded a long way without cover and was outkicked late by two horses with much easier trips. Kakaley returns to the sulky for Saturday’s trial.

Perhaps due to her racing experience as a 2-year-old, the trainer sees I Said Please as the better of the tandem at this stage.

Alexander prefers young horses but has campaigned the 12-year-old Daddy Mac for the Wassermans since a private purchase back in 2009 from trainer Bob McIntosh.

Still racing and already a winner every year with a tally at the Meadowlands this season, Daddy Mac has earned more than $300,000 for Alexander.

“Leslie is a psychologist,” said Alexander. “When we retire Daddy Mac she’s going to take him to work with autistic kids.”

Fiddlers Creek Stables has eight broodmares already and given the pedigrees of the two racing this Saturday at Pocono, the band could be growing in years to come.

For now Travis Alexander has made his decision and it will be up to Candy Corn Hanover to prove where she belongs. From what we’ve seen of her in each start, the sky is the limit.

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Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
Jay, the Nancy Johansson Darlin's Delight filly is the one I'm keeping my eye on. Her 3YO debut was extremely professional. She may have matured something special over the winter. Remember, both Mommy and Daddy have report cards that as elite as they come.