06/02/2011 1:56PM

Hollywood Park: Twirling Candy back for Californian


INGLEWOOD, Calif. –The comeback is on and the blinkers are off for Twirling Candy in Saturday’s $150,000 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park.

The dominant 4-year-old of the first half of the Santa Anita meeting earlier this year, Twirling Candy will make his first start in the Californian since a troubled fifth in the Santa Anita Handicap as the 1-2 favorite on March 5. The Californian, run over 1 1/8 miles on the main track, is a prep race for the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 9, and a win on Saturday would make Twirling Candy the favorite for that race.

“I don’t enter unless I’m ready to run, so he is doing good,” trainer John Sadler said.

Owned by breeder Jenny Craig, William Farish, and Marty Wygod, Twirling Candy will race without blinkers for the first time in the Grade 2 Californian, which drew a field of 8. He breaks from the rail and will be ridden by Joel Rosario, who has been aboard for six of the colt’s eight starts, and all four stakes wins. Last winter, Rosario rode Twirling Candy to a nose victory in track-record time over seven furlongs (1:19.70) in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes in December and an easy win by 4 1/2 lengths in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds in early February.

Twirling Candy, who tends to run near the front, drew the rail in the Californian, which Sadler said “doesn’t bother me.” Regarding the withdrawal of blinkers, Sadler said he “hopes” that Twirling Candy will be a more relaxed colt for Rosario.

Sadler has another entrant in Gladding, who could be part of the pace. Gladding, second in the Grade 3 Texas Mile Stakes at Lone Star Park in April, won the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita in February, leading throughout. Gladding, 4, is not a definite runner, Sadler said. “It won’t be decided until game day,” he said.

JAY HOVDEY: Raraely a dull moment with Twirling Candy around »

The absence of Gladding would soften the pace. The role of pacesetter would probably be inherited by Aggie Engineer, who won graded stakes in December and January but was ninth in the Santa Anita Handicap after setting the pace. Aggie Engineer will be ridden by Joe Talamo, who insists that the 6-year-old gelding is adaptable.

“It’s good to have a horse that can put you where you want to be,” Talamo said.

Setsuko is one of four runners in the field without a stakes win, a group that includes Honour the Deputy, Spurrier, and Victory Pete. Soul Candy, the winner of the California Cup Classic here last October, also starts.

Setsuko has not started since finishing a troubled second at 25-1 in the Big Cap, where he was with the leaders through the final furlong. “He had his head in front at the eighth pole in that race,” trainer Richard Mandella said.

Mandella expects a winning performance on Saturday from Setsuko in a prep for the Gold Cup.

“I would expect him to run well,” Mandella said. He should run a good race.”