04/01/2011 3:04PM

Gulfstream Park: Capt. Candyman Can continues comeback

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John Duca/Tom Cooley
Capt. Candyman Can, Frederick Lenclud up, wins the Super Stakes.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Trainer Ian Wilkes sounded far away when reached by phone on Friday to talk about Grade 1 winner Capt. Candyman Can’s appearance in Sunday’s $67,400 Sir Shackleton Handicap. And in fact he was.

Wilkes is presently in his native Australia visiting family with his wife Tracey. His mentor, trainer Carl Nafzger, will saddle Capt. Candyman Can on Sunday.

“I haven’t been home in over three years,” said Wilkes. “This was just a chance to get back to see the family for a couple of weeks before heading back to Kentucky for the spring. In fact I wouldn’t even have answered this call except I thought it was coming from the racing office.”

Capt. Candyman Can comes into the 6 1/2-furlong Sir Shackleton off a half-length victory in the seven-furlong Super Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 5. That race was his first since an eighth-place finish in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

“He was off all that time because of a chip in his knee,” said Wilkes. “And coming off that long of a layoff, I was pleased with his effort in Tampa. This is just another step on the road back. I’m not thinking about anything beyond this race at the moment. It’s his second race back and we’re just going to enjoy it one race at a time.”

To win the Sir Shackleton, Capt. Candyman Can should have to catch Regal Ransom, who is making his first start since finishing ninth after setting the pace in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap on Nov. 26.

“He’s doing well,” Rick Mettee, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor, said of Regal Ransom. “He’s like to need the race but he’s been working kind of like he was last summer when he won that race at Saratoga then tailed off on us the rest of the year. We originally thought about bringing him back in the Carter but felt it was a long way to ship with a horse who might need a race.”

Regal Ransom’s chances in the Sir Shackleton might have been enhanced with the news that D’  Funnybone, who figured to press him for the lead, will not start. D’ Funnbone, winner of both the Hutcheson and Swale over this track a year ago, has not started since finishing a tiring seventh in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop more than seven months earlier.

“He came up with a little bit of a foot thing,” trainer Rick Dutrow said Friday. “It was a little warm with a bit of a pulse this morning. Nothing serious but it doesn’t seem like a good idea to run him the day after tomorrow the way he is now. We could either do the Carter, which is not coming up strong, or stay here for a Florida-bred race going seven furlongs on the ninth. We have plenty of options, I just want to make sure he’s in good shape.”

Name riders sitting out Fla. Derby

Jockeys Edgar Prado, John Velazquez, and Kent Desormeaux have combined to win five of the last nine runnings of the Florida Derby. But when the race is run for the 60th time on Saturday, all three will be watching it on television from the jockeys’ room.

Of the eight riders in the race, only Jose Lezcano has won the Florida Derby before, that coming last year aboard Ice Box for owner Robert LaPenta and trainer Nick Zito. Saturday, Lezcano is riding Arch Traveler for trainer Jimmy Jerkens and the Centennial Farm.

While LaPenta and Zito are back in this year’s Florida Derby with Dialed In, they have Julien Leparoux to ride. Leparoux was the rider of Pleasant Prince, who was beaten a nose last year by Ice Box. Leparoux is 0 for 3 in the Florida Derby.

Cornelio Velasquez, who rides Flashpoint, is winless in six Florida Derby mounts, though he did finish second aboard Trust N Luck in 2003. Garrett Gomez, who rides To Honor and Serve, was second aboard Dunkirk in 2009. Ramon Dominguez, the rider of Stay Thirsty, is 0 for 3 in the Florida Derby, while Alan Garcia, rider of Soldat, is 0 for  1. Jesus Castanon (Shackleford) and Paco Lopez (Bowman’s Causeway) are making their Florida Derby debuts.

Winter Memories eyes Appalachian

Winter Memories, runner-up in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf, is scheduled to make her 3-year-old debut in the Grade  3, $100,000 Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland on April 21, trainer James Toner said.

On Friday, Winter Memories worked five furlongs in 1:02 over the dirt at Palm Meadows. Her previous five works – including a five-furlong move in 58.70 seconds on March 25 – were done over the turf course.

“I think she’s maturing,” Toner said. “She’s put on some weight and filled out. I couldn’t ask for anymore. She’s really done well.”

Winter Memories won her first two starts last year, including the Grade 3 Miss Grillo at Belmont Park before finishing second to More Than Real in the Breeders’ Cup.

Saez hopes to return Sunday

Jockey Luis Saez was hopeful of returning to action Sunday after taking off his mounts Friday and Saturday due to a leg injury suffered in a spill here on Thursday.

According to his agent, Peter Wright, Saez needed five stitches to repair a gash in Saez’s right leg after he was unseated when his mount, Just Call My Name, bumped with another horse in Thursday’s seventh race. Paco Lopez was also unseated when his mount tripped over Just Call My Name. Lopez was back riding on Friday.

Wright said Saez was scheduled to work Apriority for trainer David Fawkes on Saturday and then would evaluate how he felt physically.

Four-day race weeks to finish meet

Following this weekend, Gulfstream reduces its racing schedule to four days a week, Thursdays through Sundays, for the final three weeks of the meet.

The meet runs through April 24, Easter Sunday.

– additional reporting by David Grening