09/22/2005 11:00PM

Candy Factory provides delight for Dahlbergs

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It is somewhat fitting that a California-bred, 1970's star Crystal Water, helped to assure that Rex Dahlberg would become a racing man through most of his adult life.

One of Dahlberg's favorite memories is the finish of the 1977 Santa Anita Handicap, when Crystal Water fought through the stretch to edge pacesetter Faliraki.

"When I watched Crystal Water come down the lane, I was hooked," Rex said.

The only memory that exceeds that is Candy Factory's win in the $125,000 Solana Beach Handicap for statebred fillies and mares at Del Mar on Sept. 4. Bred by Rex Dahlberg and his wife, Nancy, Candy Factory won her first stakes and fourth consecutive start in the Solana Beach, run at 1 1/16 miles on turf.

The victory represented the couple's biggest win as owners and breeders.

"We've waited a long time for this," Nancy Dahlberg said that day in the winner's circle.

The Dahlbergs may be on the verge of a memorable autumn, too. Candy Factory is scheduled to run in two stakes during the Oak Tree at Santa Anita meeting - the $65,000 Swingtime Stakes at a mile on turf on Oct. 7 and the $100,000 California Cup Distance Handicap for statebreds at 1 1/4 miles on turf on Nov. 6.

"I think her best distance will be a mile and a quarter," Rex Dahlberg said.

On Oct. 4, the Dahlbergs have two colts among the 324 entered in the California October yearling sale at Barretts in Pomona. Despite the small consignment, the Dahlbergs have yearling colts by two of the state's top stallions - In Excess and Old Topper.

They are selling Noble Gambler, by In Excess out of Gambling Mistress, who was stakes-placed at Fairplex Park; and Top Approval, by Old Topper and the first foal out of winner Secret Approval.

The Dahlbergs have a farm in Santa Ynez, Calif., where they keep 11 broodmares. They are at the height of their involvement in the sport, operating as consignors to yearling sales and as owners, if necessary.

"If they don't sell, we run them," Nancy Dahlberg said.

Rex Dahlberg has a background in real estate development. The couple made an investment in breeding in the late 1980's and early 1990's, and took a more serious approach in the mid-90's.

"We decided we would have more fun in horse racing than in real estate," Rex Dahlberg said.

The Dahlbergs bred Candy Factory, who is by Seattle Bound, a stallion who stood for $1,500 in 2005 at Hideaway Farms. Candy Factory is out of the Vigors mare D.J.'s Chocolate.

Candy Factory began her career in a $40,000 claiming race for maidens and needed four starts to achieve her first win, eventually doing so in a maiden special weight in her turf debut at Del Mar in August 2004.

She has not lost since. Candy Factory, 4, won an allowance race for statebreds in September 2004, a race that was followed by a layoff of nearly 10 months.

Trained by Mike Puype in 2004, Candy Factory was transferred to trainer Mike Machowsky earlier this year. In her comeback, she won a one-mile allowance race against open company at Del Mar on Aug. 13.

"We knew when she won her comeback, she was something special," Nancy Dahlberg said.

In the Solana Beach Handicap, her stakes debut, Candy Factory rallied from last in a field of six to win by two lengths, defeating the millionaire Valentine Dancer. Candy Factory has won 4 of 7 starts and $181,720.

"It's always nice to get the first one," Machowsky said of Candy Factory's first stakes win.

In coming weeks, Candy Factory may accomplish much more.