12/03/2008 12:00AM

Candy Pull auditions for Malibu


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Candy Pull began 2008 in maiden claimers. He could end the year in a Grade 1 race at Santa Anita later this month, pending the outcome of a second-level allowance race at Hollywood Park on Friday.

Owned by HRC Stable, Candy Pull has won three of his last four starts. He has emerged as the leading horse in trainer Jesus Mendoza's barn since the summer, winning a starter allowance, an optional claimer for statebreds, and a first-condition allowance race against open company.

More important, two of those wins were in turf sprints. Friday's race is at six furlongs on turf.

"He's undefeated on turf and that's a big plus," Mendoza said. "He's going against tougher competition, but he acts like a colt that can run against better horses."

Mendoza is contemplating a start in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes for Candy Pull at Santa Anita on Dec. 25, pending Friday's result.

Candy Pull, third in the California Cup Starter Sprint Handicap at Santa Anita on Oct. 5, has drawn the rail in a field of six.

Candy Pull is one of two runners that won their last starts, joined by Valid Mecke, the winner of a first-condition allowance race at Santa Anita in January 2007, his most recent start.

Trainer Mike Mitchell said Valid Mecke was in training in Florida after the January 2007 race. He was later sent to owner Dennis Ludington's ranch in Utah.

"He turned him out in Utah and forgot all about him," Mitchell said.

Co-owned by Landman Racing, Valid Mecke has won 2 of 6 starts. He was claimed by Mitchell for $45,000 at Gulfstream Park in March 2006, and has made only four starts since that race.

"I could have run him for a tag, but he's doing really good," Mitchell said. "He's a good horse. If anything it will be a good setup for Santa Anita."

Banner Lodge will attract ample support. Trained by John Sadler for Jerry and Ann Moss, Banner Lodge was third as the 5-2 favorite against a similar field in a six-furlong allowance race on turf here on Nov. 6. Banner Lodge won an allowance race on Santa Anita's hillside turf course in late September.

"I thought he ran a nice race the other day," Sadler said. "I've been looking to run him in longer races, but this race came up light."