06/04/2011 8:39PM

Hollywood Park: Twirling Candy wins Californian from off the pace

Twirling Candy (left), with Joel Rosario riding, rallies wide to win the Californian.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The older he gets, the more intriguing Twirling Candy becomes.

Once considered a horse who had to be on or near the lead, Twirling Candy closed from sixth in a field of seven to win Saturday's $150,000 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park, returning to the top of California older male division.

Ridden by a confident Joel Rosario, Twirling Candy ($2.80) won the Grade 2 Californian Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths over Setsuko, who was making his first start since finishing second by a nose in the Santa Anita Handicap on March 5. Twirling Candy had not started since finishing a troubled fifth as the 1-2 favorite in that race.

In the Californian, Twirling Candy raced without blinkers for the first time in his nine-race career, and struggled to settle at times while tracking the leaders. Rosario had Twirling Candy in fourth on the first turn, and was as far back in the field as sixth on the backstretch, while racing between rivals. Rosario guided Twirling Candy wide on the final turn and got an impressive response in the final furlong, pulling clear to win convincingly. Twirling Candy ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:50, the slowest in 30 runnings of the Californian over that distance.

"Joel was confident and let him settle," said winning trainer John Sadler. Twirling Candy "showed a nice dimension to come from off the pace. It was a different race, but I think it will be useful."

Setsuko finished a nose in front of Aggie Engineer, who was a nose in front of Soul Candy. Spurrier, Honour the Deputy, and Victory Pete completed the order of finish.

Victory Pete, the outsider in the field at 47-1, set a slow pace of 24.60 and 49.49 seconds, with Twirling Candy trailing by as many as three lengths. Rosario said that Twirling Candy was rank on the backstretch, but said that the colt's behavior did not overly concern him.

"They were going so slow, and that can happen sometimes," he said. "I tried to grab him and keep him behind. He was a little rank, but he was better without blinkers.

"I had to go to the outside, and he showed me he's a good horse. When he saw those horses in front, he went and got them."

Twirling Candy, a 4-year-old colt by Candy Ride, earned $90,000, improving his career record to 7 wins in 9 starts and earnings of $684,900. He won the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes over seven furlongs in track-record time of 1:19.70 in December and won the Grade 2 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles at Santa Anita in February.

The Californian Stakes was Twirling Candy's fifth stakes win. He races for breeder Jenny Craig, William Farish, and Marty Wygod.

Twirling Candy and Setsuko are expected to make their next starts in the $500,000 Hollywood Gold Cup over 1 1/4 miles on July 9.