04/01/2017 4:42PM

Conquest Hardcandy goes gate to wire in Sanibel Island

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Barbara D. Livingston
Conquest Hardcandy paid $19.40 in winning the Sanibel Island Stakes.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Three hours before he was to run the favorite Gunnevera in the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, trainer Antonio Sano pulled off a mild upset in the $100,000 Sanibel Island Stakes as Conquest Hardcandy went gate to wire at 8-1.

Taking command soon after the start from the rail under Edgard Zayas, Conquest Hardcandy was able to set fractions of 23.53 for the quarter, 48.81 for the half-mile, 1:12.35 for six furlongs and held off a run from favored Happy Mesa to win by a neck in 1:35.50 for the mile. It was a half-length back to Taperge in third.

The win was the second from four starts for Conquest Hardcandy, and second from three starts since Sano purchased the New York-bred daughter of Candy Ride for $40,000 out of the Conquest Stable dispersal last November.

Conquest Hardcandy won a maiden race Feb. 12, then finished seventh after setting the pace in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride on March 4. In addition to stepping up into graded stakes company off a maiden win, Sano felt he might have run the filly back too soon. Further, Conquest Hardcandy may have gone too fast, going a half-mile in 47.78 seconds in the Herecomesthebride. On Saturday, the opening half was more than a second slower.

“I waited one month for this race,” Sano said. “Yesterday, I talked with Zayas and I said repeat the first race. Go to the front and win.”

Zayas obviously listened.

“It seemed like the turf and the dirt are playing toward speed today I knew I could have a shot because she could take advantage of a fast [course],” Zayas said. “They let her walk in front and she finished up good.”

Conquest Hardcandy returned $19.40 to win.