02/14/2014 1:45PM

Candy Ride: Leading synthetic sire by earnings and winners

Lee Thomas
Candy Ride stands at Lane's End in Versailles, Ky.

Leading Kentucky synthetic sire by earnings and winners

Candy Ride might fairly be called a “Stallion for All Surfaces.” His sons and daughters perform well on grass, both yielding and firm, and have distinguished themselves on traditional dirt tracks spanning the spectrum from glib and fast, to deep, muddy messes. But, above all, he is that new-age specialist known as a “synthetic sire,” one whose babies simply fly over artificial veneers of sand mixed with such geotextile concoctions as recycled carpet, rubber, jelly cable, and, yes, even spandex encased in wax.

These eccentric combos, whether they go by the name of Polytrack, Cushion Track, or Tapeta Footings, are frost-free/flood-free zones, easier and more economical to maintain. But far more important is their safety record; according to The Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database, synthetic surfaces now represent the safest, most forgiving racing surface out there, with fatality rates dropping by the year when compared with dirt and turf. If the data holds, this bodes well for stallions like Candy Ride, whose synthetic-loving offspring should continue to enjoy longer, ever more lucrative careers.

In 2013, no Kentucky-based progenitor proved more adept than Candy Ride at getting runners who excelled over America’s plasticized racetracks. But how would he himself have handled them? One can only guess. For the record, however, let it be noted that nothing on planet Earth seemed capable of touching him.

Candy Ride came along in 2002, just preceding the synthetic craze – which emerged full bloom in 2005-07 when eight major North American racetracks had such surfaces installed. In his native Argentina, the son of Ride the Rails had soared to championship miler status on dirt, winning all three of his starts in bloodless fashion, before being sold north early in 2003 to Sidney Craig and his diet guru wife, Jenny.

Here, Candy Ride proved equally unconquerable, taking three races over 2 1/2 months including the Grade 2 American Handicap on Hollywood’s turf course and, finally, Del Mar’s Grade 1 Pacific Classic, wherein he blistered the 1 1/4 miles in a record-breaking 1:59.11 and snagged the fastest Beyer Speed Figure of the year, 123.

“How good is he?” jockey Julie Krone queried herself rhetorically after dismounting following the Pacific Classic. “Wow! That’s how good he is. He’s a rocket ship!”

Unfortunately, ground control soon re-called the rocket to Earth when Candy Ride suffered a ligament injury. Retired unbeaten and all but unchallenged in six starts, he entered stud for $10,000 at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms in Lexington, Ky., where he remained until relocated in 2010 to Lane’s End in nearby Versailles. Candy Ride’s 2014 fee at Lane’s End is $35,000.

Candy Ride proved an immediate success in his new career, ranking third among 2008 freshman sires and fifth on the second- and third-crop lists of 2009 and 2010, respectively. From the outset it was clear that, as versatile as his runners were, they had a unique flair for man-made surfaces. Remarkably, with just three crops racing in 2010, Candy Ride ranked second nationally by synthetic earnings – led by Grade 1 winners Sidney’s Candy and Misremembered (both on what was then Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride main track) and El Brujo (on Del Mar’s Polytrack).

In 2013 no Kentucky-based progenitor proved better at getting runners who excelled over synthetic tracks. Last year Candy Ride was represented by 85 synthetic starters, 29 of whom won – four more than nearest category rivals Stormy Atlantic and Kitten’s Joy.

Four of Candy Ride’s 13 Northern Hemisphere stakes winners for 2013 – 31 percent – garnered their black type on synthetics, ranking him co-second in the Bluegrass (and nationally) behind Harlan’s Holiday (six) and tied with Speightstown and Giant’s Causeway, and his synthetic runners  combined for national-high earnings of $2,355,446. 

The runner who contributed most to that bankroll was Shared Belief, 2013’s champion juvenile male, who, like his sire, has yet to taste defeat. In December the gelding punctuated his season with an emphatic victory over another Candy Ride colt – Candy Boy – in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity on the now-defunct Hollywood Park Cushion Track.

Other synthetic stars contributing to Candy Ride’s stats included Clubhouse Ride (Grade 2 Californian, Hollywood); Kettle Corn (Grade 2 San Diego Handicap, Del Mar); and Sweet Luca (stakes winner, Arlington Park).

Through Feb. 7, Candy Ride’s lifetime offspring have won or placed in 547 of 1,146 synthetic starts. That’s nearly a 48 percent top-three strike rate. As Adam Sandler might say … not too shabby.