05/14/2009 11:00PM

Candyman faces fast challenger


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Churchill Downs fans feel a certain kinship with the Preakness at Pimlico. There is the common membership thread in the tiny fraternity of Triple Crown hosts, the parochial pride of having produced a Derby winner for his next start, and the still-fresh memories of the many momentous events that propelled the series to Baltimore.

And yet, before everyone turns their attention to the simulcast of the 134th Preakness, Churchill fans will be conducting some everyday business here Saturday. An 11-race card is highlighted by the $100,000 Matt Winn Stakes, a seven-furlong race with an intriguing matchup to offset the fact that only five 3-year-olds are entered.

Capt. Candyman Can, a onetime prospect on the Triple Crown fringes, surely will be the favorite but seems in for a stern challenge from Cash Refund, a hot newcomer who earned an eye-popping 110 Beyer Speed Figure here in just his second start April 25.

Ian Wilkes, trainer of Capt. Candyman Can, is friendly with Steve Margolis, the trainer of Cash Refund.

"Bring him on," Wilkes said in mock bravado. "We're ready for the challenge."

Wilkes has done a terrific job of spotting Capt. Candyman Can, having avoided longer distances and therefore the elite of the 3-year-old division.

"It's not that I think he can't handle the top horses, it's just that the distances of the big races would put us at a disadvantage," said Wilkes.

Capt. Candyman Can, owned by Joseph Rauch and David Zell, has won three graded stakes at a mile or less: the Grade 3 Iroquois here last fall, the Grade 2 Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park in January, and the Grade 3 Bay Shore at Aqueduct in April.

Cash Refund, owned by the Klein family of Louisville, arrived late on the scene, winning his Feb. 19 debut at Fair Grounds by 6 3/4 lengths, then romping by seven on opening day, earning that 110 Beyer.

Of the other three Winn starters, Dance Caller rates highest, having won the Northern Spur at Oaklawn Park last out. Zigaree and Conchacer round out the cast.

The Winn is the 10th race on a card also includes two allowances (races 7 and 9). First post is 12:45 p.m. Eastern, with the Winn set for 5:29 and the last race for 5:58. The Preakness goes at 6:15.