08/24/2003 12:00AM

Candy Ride sets track record in Pacific Classic


DEL MAR, Calif. - There can no longer be any question about the brilliance of Candy Ride.

In Sunday's $980,000 Pacific Classic at Del Mar, Candy Ride easily defeated top older horse Medaglia d'Oro to remain undefeated after six starts. The victory confirmed his status as a candidate for the Breeders' Cup Classic at Oak Tree at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, if owners Sid and Jenny Craig pay an $800,000 supplemental fee.

Ridden by Julie Krone, who replaced an injured Gary Stevens, Candy Ride ($6.40) scored by 3 1/2 lengths over Medaglia d'Oro, setting a track record of 1:59.11 for 1 1/4 miles.

"How good a horse is he?" said Krone. "Amazing. He is a rocketship."

The win marked the first success in the track's richest race for the Craigs, Krone and trainer Ron McAnally.

Essentially, the Pacific Classic was a match race. As expected, Medaglia d'Oro and Candy Ride ran close to the pace, with former claimer Fleetstreet Dancer and two-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Milwaukee Brew running from off the pace. The richest race at Del Mar, the Pacific Classic drew only four starters after the withdrawal on Friday of Kudos because of injury.

Medaglia d'Oro, unbeaten in three major stakes this year, was sent off as the 3-5 favorite.

Ridden by Jerry Bailey, he took the lead shortly after the start, but was closely tracked by Candy Ride, who bobbled at the start. Medaglia d'Oro set early fractions of 23.40 and 46.82 seconds but was never farther than a length in front of Candy Ride.

Approaching the final turn, Candy Ride was within a half-length of Medaglia d'Oro, with Milwaukee Brew a length behind. On the final turn, Medaglia d'Oro and Candy Ride quickly put distance on Milwaukee Brew and Fleetstreet Dancer

Candy Ride, racing on the outside, took the lead entering the stretch and stretched a one-length advantage at the eighth pole to a convincing win. He received a rousing reception when he returned to the winner's circle.

"He's unreal. He's a push-button horse," McAnally said. "I told Julie this morning, 'Let him have it but don't let him get too far in front.' The horse he beat is probably the best horse in the country."

Medaglia d'Oro finished seven lengths clear of Fleestreet Dancer, a former $40,000 claimer who finished two lengths in front of Milwaukee Brew.

The Pacific Classic was the first loss for Medaglia d'Oro since a runner-up finish to Volponi in the 2002 Breeders' Cup Classic at Arlington Park. "He got outrun," trainer Bobby Frankel said.

Candy Ride, 4, won three times in Argentina in 2002. A winner of $749,145, Candy Ride has won three times since being acquired last winter by the Craigs and sent to McAnally. The Craigs, who live in nearby Rancho Santa Fe, ranked the win above victories by Dr. Devious in the 1992 Epsom Derby and Paseana's win in the 1992 Breeders' Cup Distaff.

"It's probably the most exciting moment of my racing career, bigger than the Epsom Derby or the Breeders' Cup," Sid Craig said. "It doesn't get any better than winning in your own backyard."