05/05/2011 10:32AM

Hollywood Park: Sidney's Candy ends long layoff in Mervyn LeRoy

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Sidney’s Candy returns to racing after a layoff of more than four months in Saturday’s $150,000 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood Park, where the 4-year-old colt will be a strong favorite to win his sixth career stakes.

Sidney’s Candy is the 123-pound highweight in the Grade 2 race over 1 1/16 miles on the synthetic main track, which trainer John Sadler envisions as a prep to major stakes during the summer, possibly the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on turf on July 2.

“He’s so versatile,” Sadler said earlier this week. “We’ll have lots of options. I look at everything with him. It’s a long year and I’m not worried. You need to try and win the big ones.”

Just being able to plan anything with Sidney’s Candy is progress, considering the events of recent months. After winning the Grade 3 Sir Beaufort Stakes on the main track at Santa Anita in December, Sidney’s Candy was ranked as one of California’s leading 4-year-old prospects for the winter. But he missed that portion of the season.

In January, he underwent tests on his right hind end when found to be walking unsound. The tests revealed no injuries, allowing Sidney’s Candy to resume training. In February, he was sidelined again by a quarter crack, which kept him out of the Kilroe Mile in March and Arcadia Stakes in April.

“That’s horses,” Sadler said.

Since March 26, Sidney’s Candy has worked steadily, including seven furlongs in 1:24 last Sunday. On April 24, Sidney’s Candy officially worked six furlongs in 1:13, although Sadler timed the workout in 1:11.80.

“He looks very solid,” Sadler said.

Owned by Jenny Craig, Sidney’s Candy will be ridden for the first time in the Mervyn LeRoy by Alonso Quinonez. Previous jockeys Joe Talamo and Joel Rosario have mounts at Churchill Downs.

Sidney’s Candy may face early pressure from Coffee Boy, who won the Grade 2 Carry Back Stakes at Calder last year, but has never won a graded stakes around two turns. The Mervyn LeRoy will be Coffee Boy’s first start for trainer Peter Miller, who himself will be absent from Hollywood Park on Saturday to saddle the speedy Comma to the Top in the Kentucky Derby.

The Mervyn LeRoy field also includes Honour the Deputy and Spurrier, who were second and third in the Grade 3 Tokyo City Handicap at Santa Anita in March; and Crown of Thorns, who is trained by Richard Mandella.

Crown of Thorns was the morning-line favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs last November, but was withdrawn the day before the race because of a knee injury. He has made one start this year, finishing seventh in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Stakes for sprinters at Santa Anita last month. Last week, trainer Richard Mandella blamed himself for the loss, saying he thought that Crown of Thorns was more fit that the performance displayed.

The Mervyn LeRoy is the first of three stakes on Saturday’s 11-race program, which begins at 11 a.m. Pacific.

Cost of Freedom fresh for Cool Frenchy

Sadler starts the favorite in the $70,000 Cool Frenchy Stakes over five furlongs in Cost of Freedom, a Hollywood Park specialist. The 8-year-old Cost of Freedom has won 5 of 9 starts here, including three consecutive stakes last fall.

The Cool Frenchy Stakes, which drew a field of six, will be Cost of Freedom’s first start since a third in the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita in January. Sadler said Cost of Freedom benefits from layoffs.

“When he needs time, he shows you he needs time,” he said. “His pattern is to go for three or four races and then get a break. This is his best track.”

Cost of Freedom will be challenged by Dancing in Silks, winless in six starts since an upset in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Sprint; and M One Rifle, the winner of the 2009 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita.

◗ Cambina will be heavily favored to win her fourth consecutive stakes in the $100,000 Senorita Stakes for 3-year-old fillies over a mile on turf, the 10th race on Saturday.

Trained by Jeff Bonde, Cambina won three stakes at Santa Anita, including the Grade 2 Providencia Stakes over 1 1/8 miles on turf on April 9.

Cambina is a closer, who must catch expected pacesetter Wave of Applause, who was fourth in the Providencia; and Fifth Ave, who won her U.S. debut stylishly on April 15.