10/30/2009 11:00PM

Capt. Candyman Can's owner dies

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ARCADIA, Calif. - The excitement of Breeders' Cup Week was tempered for the connections of Capt. Candyman Can on Saturday with the news of the sudden death of Dr. Joseph Rauch, a co-owner and breeder of the gelding, who is among the leading contenders for next Saturday's Sprint. Rauch, a director of the urgent care department at Leesburg Regional Hospital near Ocala, Fla., was 66.

Trainer Ian Wilkes said he received the news from Rauch's wife, Rosemary, around 8:30 a.m. Saturday as he prepared to leave Churchill Downs for the Skylight Training Center, where Capt. Candyman Can is stabled.

"It was a shock for sure," said Wilkes. "I didn't know of any health problems that he had. From what I understand he died in his sleep. It's just hard to believe."

Wilkes said he last spoke to Rauch on Monday, shortly after Capt. Candyman Can worked four furlongs in 48.20 seconds over the Pro-Ride surface at Skylight.

"You couldn't have a better owner," said Wilkes on Saturday. "He loved knowing what was going on with his horses but wasn't the kind of owner who'd call you every day. We spoke about once a week. I was supposed to talk to him again tomorrow after Capt. Candyman Can had his final work for the Sprint."

Capt. Candyman Can became a Grade 1 winner when he was placed first following the disqualification of Vineyard Haven in Saratoga's King's Bishop. He earned his way into the Breeders' Cup by virtue of his second-place finish behind 2008 Sprint runner-up Fatal Bullet in Keeneland's Grade 3 Phoenix on Oct. 9.

"Dr. Rauch was really excited about the prospect of going to the Breeders' Cup," said Wilkes. "He was really having such a good time with this horse."

Wilkes said he would discuss the situation with David Zell, who owned Capt. Candyman Can with Rauch, before making a decision on the 3-year-old's Breeders' Cup status.

"I spoke briefly with Mr. Zell's son Steve earlier today, and right now it looks like we'll go ahead and run in the Breeders' Cup because that's what Dr. Rauch would have wanted," said Wilkes. "For now I just want to let the shock of all this wear off and allow the horse to work as scheduled on Sunday before making a final decision regarding the Sprint."

Capt. Candyman Can was scheduled to board a flight for California from Louisville early Monday morning.