Updated on 09/17/2011 11:15AM

Feeding frenzy: Candy Ride takes on Frankel duo

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DEL MAR, Calif. - There are no alternative races for undefeated Candy Ride, no backup plans. Sunday at Del Mar, the Argentine flash will either justify the fuss or not when he runs in the stakes for which he was specifically acquired by owners Sid and Jenny Craig - the Grade 1 Pacific Classic.

Candy Ride faces two formidable Bobby Frankel trainees - Medaglia d'Oro and Milwaukee Brew. Otherwise, the field for $1 million race is shallow. Congaree skipped Del Mar entirely, and Kudos bowed a tendon in a workout Thursday and has been declared. It leaves just four starters, and a guaranteed $60,000 payday for longshot Fleetstreet Dancer, an honest Grade 3-caliber horse.

At 1 1/4 miles, the Grade 1 Pacific Classic boils down to Candy Ride vs. Medaglia d'Oro, whose lone defeat his last six starts was a runner-up finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic. He is racing in California for the first time since a runaway win in the Strub Stakes in February at Santa Anita. Medaglia d'Oro and Milwaukee Brew will try to add to Frankel's record. He has won six of the 12 renewals of the Pacific Classic.

The Pacific Classic is race 5 on an 11-race card. First post is 12:30, and post time for the Pacific Classic is 2:45 Pacific. A $1 million guaranteed pick six pool on races 6 through 11 includes the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks, a turf race for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles.

Despite the stranglehold Frankel holds on the Pacific Classic, none of his 13 starters has been favored. That will change Sunday. Medaglia d'Oro is the rightful favorite, even while most prerace attention has focused on Ron McAnally-trained Candy Ride.

Candy Ride caught McAnally's eye in January. Three blowout victories in Argentina proved he was a good horse. More important, McAnally understood the desire by longtime clients the Craigs to win the premier race of summer at Del Mar, just miles from their home in nearby Rancho Santa Fe.

"It's in our backyard. It's where we are," said Sid Craig. "The Derby is the top race in the world, but except for that, this is the most important race for us." When McAnally first mentioned Candy Ride, said Craig, "he said 'I think I found the horse that can win the Pacific Classic.' "

McAnally was impressed with Candy Ride's action, which he described as "effortless," and his demeanor after a 1 1/4-mile workout. "He came back and was hardly blowing at all, and the next day he was back on the track, bucking. He is some unusual kind of horse."

And, he was up for sale.

Candy Ride might have ended up with Frankel, who was not satisfied with preliminary veterinary reports. McAnally and the Craigs liked what they saw however, and Candy Ride was purchased for $900,000. He won his U.S. debut June 7 in a three-other-than allowance at Hollywood Park, then defeated Special Ring in the Grade 2 American Handicap on turf. Candy Ride's form was flattered when Special Ring returned to set a Del Mar turf course record for nine furlongs, winning the Grade 1 Eddie Read by five lengths.

In the seven weeks since the American, Candy Ride has trained brilliantly on the Del Mar main track. Julie Krone takes over for injured jockey Gary Stevens on Candy Ride. She familiarized herself with the colt in a four-furlong workout Wednesday. "He's like a Cadillac - his turn of foot is just amazing," Krone said. Regarding strategy, Krone said, "I don't think we'll be sneaking up on Medaglia d'Oro."

Krone is expected to position Candy Ride just behind Medaglia d'Oro, whose front-running style affords him a tactical advantage. "The style of the [Pacific Classic] favors him," Frankel said. "He likes Santa Anita, which is fairly similar, and he's going to be in front." Medaglia d'Oro has never raced at Del Mar, but appeared strong and comfortable while galloping over the surface this week.

Jerry Bailey rides Medaglia d'Oro, who is returning only three weeks after winning the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga. That race followed a four-month layoff. Bounce? Not likely, according to Frankel. "He didn't run his top number, and he's a big strong horse." Medaglia d'Oro is owned by Edmund Gann, of Rancho Santa Fe.

Frankel suggests bettors not overlook Frank Stronach-owned Milwaukee Brew, though the Beyer Speed Figure of 104 he earned in his allowance-race comeback is well below what will be required Sunday.

"If you look back, he usually improves [second start back]," Frankel said. "He ran good, he had his [prep] race. He ran good at Del Mar last year, and that was without blinkers. The blinkers have moved him up. He's ready."

Edgar Prado rides Milwaukee Brew.