02/26/2011 1:19PM

Gallagher to take two shots at Santa Anita Handicap

Benoit & Associates
Soul Candy will make his first dirt start in Saturday's Big Cap.

ARCADIA, Calif.– Trainer Paddy Gallagher has two chances to win the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday, with the recent stakes winners Aggie Engineer and Soul Candy. Gallagher will need strength in numbers.

With a field led by the exciting 4-year-old Twirling Candy, Gallagher is banking on stamina to help his runners play an important role in the 1 1/4-mile race, the richest of the Santa Anita meeting for older horses.

Aggie Engineer won the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap over 1 1/8 miles at Hollywood Park in December and the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap over 1 1/16 miles in January, but could only finish third behind a slow pace in the San Antonio Stakes over 1 1/8 miles here on Feb. 6.

Soul Candy won the California Cup Classic against statebreds over 1 1/8 miles at Hollywood Park in October, but was third in the Native Diver and third in the Sunshine Millions Turf. Typical of many horses based in Southern California in recent years, Soul Candy will make his first start on a conventional sand-and-clay track in the Big Cap, having previously raced on synthetic surfaces or turf.

“I think he’ll go a mile and a quarter,” Gallagher said.

Saturday, Gallagher worked both horses six furlongs at Hollywood Park. Soul Candy was timed in 1:11.80. “There was a horse in front of him and that made him go a little faster,” Gallagher said.
Aggie Engineer was timed in 1:12.60. “They both seemed to work well,” Gallagher said. “In their last three or four starts, they’ve run good, whether they’ve won or been placed.”

Twirling Candy will be favored in a probable field of 11. Trainer Bob Baffert could have as many as four starters – First Dude, Game On Dude, Spurrier, and Tweebster. Other candidates are Gladding, Pode Ir, Quindici Man, and Setsuko.

Fluke ready and waiting for Kilroe Mile

Fluke, who won the Grade 3 Thunder Road Handicap on Feb. 5, has impressed trainer Humberto Ascanio with his training in advance of Saturday’s $300,000 Frank Kilroe Mile, including a five-furlong workout in 1:00.40 at Hollywood Park on Friday.

“Now we have to wait for next weekend,” Ascanio said.

In the Thunder Road, Fluke ended a three-race losing streak dating back to the Grade 1 Citation Handicap at Hollywood Park in 2009. During that span, he was second in each start, notably a nose loss to the mare Proviso in the 2010 Kilroe.

Ascanio said leading rider Rafael Bejarano will ride Fluke. Joe Talamo, who was aboard Fluke in the Thunder Road is booked to ride Caracortado, who won the Sunshine Millions Turf on Jan. 29.

The Kilroe will feature Acclamation, the winner of two graded stakes last year at 1 1/4 miles and 1 1/2 miles, who has not started since a sixth in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar last July; and Jeranimo, who won the Grade 2 San Gabriel Stakes in December but was fourth in the Sunshine Millions Turf.

The race will not include Sidney’s Candy, who has missed training time in recent weeks because of a quarter crack. Sidney’s Candy resumed training late last week, and trainer John Sadler has targeted the $150,000 Arcadia Stakes over a mile on turf on April 9, Santa Anita Derby day, as a potential comeback.

In the long-range, Sadler has loftier goals. Sidney’s Candy is a candidate for the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes over a mile at Royal Ascot on June 14.