07/07/2008 11:00PM

Candy Ball justifies bold gamble


Candy Ball's connections had to make a judgment call last week at Louisiana Downs. Their options were to run Candy Ball in a high-end optional claimer for fillies and mares at 7 1/2 furlongs on turf or against males in the $50,000 Independence.

The went for the stakes, and Candy Ball delivered with a dominant 2 3/4-length win. For the effort, she earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 92.

"She ran a big race," said Andrew Leggio, who trains Candy Ball for Rancha Fresa.

Leggio said there were several factors that went into the decision to run in the Independence. For one, he said he thought Candy Ball stacked up well against those nominated to the turf race, and so did the betting public, which sent her off as the favorite.

"I also liked the mile distance, and we liked the purse a little bit better than the other race," said Leggio.

The next course of action for Candy Ball will be a return to the filly and mare ranks. Leggio said she will be pointed to two upcoming stakes at Louisiana Downs. The first is the $75,000 Honeymoon at 1 1/16 miles on turf Aug. 16. The other is the $100,000 River Cities at a mile on turf Sept. 20.

"They've got a couple of races, and we'll sit back and wait on those," said Leggio.

Candy Ball picked up her fourth career stakes win in the Independence. She has now won 9 of 23 starts and $345,075. Candy Ball is the latest female stakes winner for Leggio, who also trained Grade 1 winner Happy Ticket. He said earlier this year, Happy Ticket foaled a "beautiful" colt by Distorted Humor.

Verenzuela could miss two months

Jockey Jose Verenzuela sustained five cracked ribs and a dislocated shoulder in a spill last Friday, according to his agent, Frank Trosclair. Initial doctor reports indicate he will be out for two months. Verenzuela on Tuesday was making plans to see a specialist, said Trosclair.

"I'm hoping he'll only be out two months or so," said Trosclair.

Verenzuela was injured when Cujo's Mojo, his mount in the seventh race at Louisiana Downs, clipped heels after a rival bore out. It happened in a maiden special weight for 2-year-olds bred in Louisiana.

Verenzuela is 8 for 49 this meet at Louisiana Downs, with mount earnings of $124,805. Earlier on the card Friday, he won a maiden special weight with a promising first-time starter, Hi Ho Cheerio. The horse is a half-brother to multiple stakes winner Chit Chat Pam.

Haynes leading on two fronts

Jan Haynes, who is fresh off winning the Oaklawn Park owner title in April, is leading the standings at both Louisiana Downs and Lone Star Park. She had gone 12 for 52 with her starters at Louisiana Downs through Sunday, and had a 13-for-61 record at Lone Star. Haynes is a native of Ruston, La., and a resident of Dallas. She claimed her first horse in 2000.

Her primary trainer at Louisiana Downs is Jorge Lara, who had a triple at the track Friday, and a double on Sunday. He leads the standings with 15 wins. Haynes is the 12th leading owner in North America, with 49 wins through Monday. She won the owner title last year at Louisiana Downs.

* Southern Soul might be tough to handle in the seventh race Thursday if he runs back to his dominant maiden special weight win on May 25. He will start as a top contender in the first-level allowance at five furlongs on turf. Southern Soul won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race by 6 1/2 lengths, and earned a Beyer of 83. Lonnie Meche has the mount for Leggio, who is winning at a 33 percent rate this meet at Louisiana Downs.