01/20/2009 1:00AM

Capt. Candyman Can sprinting to improve


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Sometimes you have to take one step back before trying to take two steps forward.

That pretty much sums up the decision trainer Ian Wilkes has made with his Kentucky Derby prospect Capt. Candyman Can, who will begin his 3-year-old campaign turning back to seven furlongs for the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes on Jan. 30 after making his final three starts at 2 at distances of a mile or longer.

Capt. Candyman Can gained immediate fame following his impressive debut win last summer at Saratoga. He jumped immediately into a graded stakes, finishing a troubled sixth as the favorite in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity. A son of Candy Ride, he rebounded in his next start with a popular three-length triumph going a mile in the Grade 3 Iroquois before concluding his season three weeks later with a close third-place finish behind the Beethoven in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs.

"He did too much wrong in his last start," Wilkes said. "He was just too aggressive and didn't relax like I thought he would. What he needs is a seven-furlong race where there is enough speed to get him back, a race that should be able to tell us what direction to take with him down the road."

Wilkes should know what it takes to get a potential Derby candidate ready for battle. He was an integral part of trainer Carl Nafzger's team that made all the right moves preparing Street Sense for his Kentucky Derby victory in 2007.

The Hutcheson is coming up relatively soft. The top two finishers from the six-furlong Spectacular Bid - Notonthesamepage and You Luckie Mann - are both heading elsewhere.

Notonthesamepage is not scheduled to run again until the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth, while You Luckie Mann will likely be favored in Saturday's Sunshine Millions Dash.

Capt. Candyman Can has had four works at Palm Meadows since his arrival in south Florida. The last two have been bullets, including a five-furlong drill in 59.80 seconds on Monday, which was matched on that morning's work tab by Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Albertus Maximus.

"His works have been nice and comfortable," said Wilkes. "The most important thing right now is not to get too far ahead of the game. We've still got to find out if he's good enough to be a Derby contender. I think he is, and I also think he'll handle the added distances. But right now what he needs is racing, some more experience, and, for him, the Hutcheson is the perfect place to start out."

Atoned's target race nears

At this time last winter, Atoned was on the Kentucky Derby trail after concluding his 2-year-old campaign with a second-place finish behind Court Vision in the Gradeo2 Remsen. Atoned's reputation was further enhanced by another near miss, a neck loss, behind Big Truck, when Atoned began his 3-year-old season in the Grade 3 Tampa Derby.

Unfortunately, Atoned's Derby dreams ended following disappointing performances in both the Illinois Derby and Lexington. In fact, he did not win a race at 3 until his season finale, in the Grade 3 Pegasus on Oct. 24 at the Meadowlands. But trainer Todd Pletcher is looking forward to bringing Atoned back to action on Saturday as one of the top contenders in the $1 million Sunshine Millions Classic.

"We've been pointing for the Classic ever since the Pegasus," said Pletcher, who trains Atoned for Cot Campbell's Dogwood Stable. "We thought about running him in the Hal's Hope as a prep for the Classic but decided it was a little too close. This is going to be a tough race, but I'm very pleased with the way he's training - and his last three works indicate to me that he's doing as well as he's ever done."

Atoned will break from post 8 in a field of 12 set to go in the 1 1/8-mile Classic. He'll be ridden by Chris Decarlo, who guided the son of Repent to victory in the Pegasus.

Frolic's Dream targets Forward Gal

Frolic's Dream would likely have been the odds-on favorite had her connections opted to ship her to Santa Anita for Saturday's Sunshine Millions Oaks. Instead, Frolic's Dream will stay at home and await the Grade 2 Forward Gal here the following week. Frolic's Dream suffered her first setback in four starts when finishing third, beaten two noses by Gemswick Park and Elusive Heat, in the six-furlong Old Hat Stakes on Jan. 4.

Frolic's Dream had her first workout since the Old Hat, an easy half-mile in 50.40 seconds over her home base at Calder on Tuesday.