05/15/2009 11:00PM

Capt. Candyman Can wins stretch battle

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - In the days leading into the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs on Saturday, trainer Ian Wilkes kept teasing with his colleague Steve Margolis.

And after the Wilkes-trained Capt. Candyman Can earned a hard-fought victory over Cash Refund, a previously unbeaten gelding trained by Margolis, Wilkes had this quip: "When I told them to bring it on, I didn't mean bring it on that much."

Indeed, the eighth running of the $106,900 Matt Winn unfolded into a battle royal that had both sides singing the other's praises afterward. Capt. Candyman Can, getting a good inside stalking trip under Javier Castellano, swung out for the drive and wore down Cash Refund to win the seven-furlong race by three-quarters of a length. It was another 5 1/2 lengths back to Conchacer, the third-place finisher in a field of five 3-year-olds.

"Cash Refund ran extremely well," said Wilkes. "Our horse had an edge in experience, so that might have made the difference. But they both ran very big races."

Cash Refund, ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., was the sent away the 4-5 favorite, with Capt. Candyman Can paying $4 to win as a close second choice.

Capt. Candyman Can, owned by Joseph Rauch and David Zell, now has won five times in eight career starts, with the Matt Winn marking his fourth stakes victory. He finished in 1:22.89 over a fast track, adding the Winn to his prior scores in the Iroquois at Churchill, the Hutcheson at Gulfstream, and the Bay Shore at Aqueduct. He earned $66,278, lifting his bankroll to $410,423.

Cash Refund, who dueled early outside of the eventual last-place finisher, Dance Caller, was racing for just the third time, having won impressively at the Fair Grounds and Churchill in his prior starts.

About an hour before the Winn, Wilkes had a scare when a 3-year-old maiden filly from his stable, Caroline B, clipped heels and fell in the eighth race. Fortunately, both she and jockey Tony Farina were not seriously injured.