08/06/2008 11:00PM

Candy Ride's new career off nicely

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DEL MAR, Calif. - The last time the South American star Candy Ride was seen by the racing public, he was heading for the Del Mar postrace test barn on the afternoon of Aug. 24, 2003, after winning the Pacific Classic. At that point he was unbeaten in six lifetime starts, including all three of his Stateside appearances, and he had just defeated Whitney Handicap winner Medaglia d'Oro by 3 1/4 lengths. Witnesses were impressed.

"I finished third on Fleetstreet Dancer," Tyler Baze recalled. "Those other two were a long ways in front of me."

Jump-cut to Wednesday, again at Del Mar, where Baze found himself flying through the stretch of the 6 1/2-furlong Sorrento Stakes aboard Evita Argentina, one of Candy Ride's first daughters, bred by the Halo Farms of Ted Aroney and owned by Aroney and Ron Judy. Light, leggy, and missing a baby tooth, Evita Argentina toured the synthetic course like an old pro, defeating the troubled Stardom Bound by a length at the end of a well-stocked race that is likely to produce stakes performers for many months to come.

The racing of 2-year-old fillies in California gets very serious each summer with the running of the Sorrento. The distance is meaningful, and the crop is far enough along to have revealed significant talent. Past winners include champions and classic winners such as Brave Raj, Lite Light, Phone Chatter, Silverbulletday, Chilukki, and Tempera. Beyond the first two finishers in this year's running, it might be a good idea to keep close track of Glitter City, who pressed a stiff pace and stuck around, only to be disqualified and place fourth behind the winner's stablemate Emmy Darling, who had already won the Landaluce. Most of them will be back for the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante on Labor Day.

As for Candy Ride, he never made it past the Pacific Classic. A low bow ended his career, despite trainer Ron McAnally's best Hall of Fame efforts to finesse the handsome animal back into the game. A son of the Cryptoclearance stallion Ride the Rails, Candy Ride went to stud in Kentucky in 2005.

First, an aside. Based upon early returns, Candy Ride could be as successful at stud as he was as a racehorse in a brief but brilliant U.S. career for McAnally and the late Sid Craig. Chances are, his name will come up in this space from time to time. My wife, Julie Krone, rode Candy Ride in that Pacific Classic victory, for which she received a nice, shiny bauble from the racetrack and the standard 10 percent of the first-place purse, but nothing in the way of breeding gratuities. As her husband, I received the standard spouse cut of 1/10 of 1 percent of her 10 percent, plus dinner that night. Memories . . . priceless.

Anyway, before the stallion is anointed as the next Northern Dancer, there will need to be a lot of diligent work applied to his offspring to get to their inner Candy Ride. Evita Argentina has been the focus of considerable attention around the John Sadler operation from day one.

On the surface, the caramel chestnut looks about as much like her sire as the barn cat, but other measures apply. Candy Ride, dark bay and all boy, was an almost serene, Zen-like racehorse - "class on class" is the way McAnally described him - and the daughter has tapped the source. Larry Benavidez, who oversees the Sadler horses at Hollywood Park during the Del Mar season, took Evita Argentina under his wing early and brought Baze along for the ride.

"She was green, kind of stupid, just maturing," Baze said after the Sorrento. "I worked her every single week until she ran the first time, and every week she'd get better, and better, and better. She's never been outworked, because she doesn't want to get beat. Ever."

Still, Baze was not overly optimistic about Evita Argentina winning first time out, on June 25 at Hollywood.

"She's not real fast from the gate," Baze said. "I can make her be fast. But with the class she has, and as fit as she was, I didn't want to put 'fast' in her head." She won anyway.

"She's not a real big filly," Baze added. "But her neck is real long, and she has the longest stride. She spends a lot of time in the air."

The people around her are starting to soar as well.

"She has a great mind, a lovely mouth, a beautiful way of going," Benavidez said as he followed Evita Argentina off the track. "And I can't wait to run her a mile. Did you see the gallop-out? Yeah, she won the race, but I was more excited about the gallop-out."

Benavidez also noted that he wasn't the least bit worried when the filly knocked out a front tooth while he was fitting the bit in her mouth back at the barn before the race. This would explain why she did not smile for the winner's circle photo.

"Just a baby tooth," Benavidez said. "It bled for a little bit and stopped by the time we got over here. Anyway, it was a long way from her heart. I threw the tooth away, but I know where to find it."

Put it under her pillow. See what happens next.