02/14/2014 3:41PM

Jay Hovdey: Searings ready for bout of Derby Fever

Benoit and Associates
Lee Searing (left) celebrates in the winner's circle with trainer John Sadler and jockey Rafael Bejarano.

Things are starting to get a little dizzy around the Lee and Susan Searing household, what with Candy Boy winning the Robert B. Lewis Stakes last weekend and Kobe’s Back primed for the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita on Sunday. Good 3-year-olds in February will do that to you.

“I’ve owned horses since I was 18 years old,” Lee Searing said Friday morning, from his Searing Industries offices in Rancho Cucamonga, not far from Santa Anita. “Always cheap horses, though, and it wasn’t until 15 years ago when we started buying some 2-year-olds with John Sadler. I can honestly tell you this is the first time we have ever hit the 3-year-old trail of big races that could end up in a race like the Santa Anita Derby or the Kentucky Derby.”

Searing was late to work Friday because he paid a visit to the Sadler barn at Santa Anita to visit his horses. He gets to do that because he’s the boss.

“I do run a manufacturing company and have since I was got out of college,” Searing said. “But the horses have gone right along with it, side by side. Maybe it’s the horses that keep me sane.”

Searing Industries, which also has a factory in Cheyenne, Wyo., makes metal tubing for all manner of industrial and recreational purposes. Chances are you’ll encounter a piece of Searing steel in the course of a normal day without even thinking about what went into that fence, those shelves, that wheelchair.

Searing, 65, concedes that Thoroughbred racing is a lot sexier than metal tubing and has the trophies to prove it. The Searings’ Quiet American mare Switch put their CRK Stable name in lights with her multiple stakes wins and her Breeders’ Cup record of two seconds and a third in successive runnings of the Filly and Mare Sprint. Their biggest win occurred half a world away in 2004 when Our New Recruit, by Alphabet Soup, won the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai, and they’ve made headlines with the likes of Kettle Corn, Hasty Kris, Ceeband, and She’s an Eleven, the dam of Candy Boy. All of them have been trained by Sadler.

Kobe’s Back has run only three times, beginning with a win in the Willard L. Proctor Memorial at Hollywood Park as a maiden, in June 2013. In his next start, five months later, he ran into a buzzsaw named Shared Belief and finished a distant second, after which he joined stablemate Candy Boy in the gate for the CashCall Futurity.

“And where does he draw?” Searing said. “The thirteen hole. It looked like he broke about ten lengths to the outside, moved up and finally settles in, then Candy Boy didn’t help him at all when he almost went to his knees. It was lucky he didn’t get hurt.”

Candy Boy went on to finish second to Shared Belief, while Joel Rosario, aboard Kobe’s Back, eased his colt out of the race to fight another day. Significantly, Rosario is in from Florida for a return engagement.

“He didn’t hesitate when we asked him to come back,” Searing said. “I’m about as high on this colt as you can be.”

Kobe’s Back, named by hardcore Lakers fan Searing for the team’s star guard, cost $480,000 as a 2-year-old. Candy Boy, a homebred by Candy Ride, apparently got his name the night he was foaled at Foxtale Farm in Nicholasville, Ky.

“Dermot Joyce, the farm manager, called that night and said, ‘Lee, this is not only a big foal, this Candy boy, he’s a beautiful foal,’ ” Searing said. “He kept calling him that, over and over, so when it came time to name him we really didn’t have a choice.”

That’s a relief, and a ready-made, wholesome story for the media if Candy Boy goes on to bigger things. Googlers will find that “Candy Boy” is also in more than one pop song (not counting the protagonist in Springsteen’s “Candy’s Room”). In addition, it is the name of a Japanese anime series that features young twin girls at a boarding school fending off the temptations of classmates and snacks.

“You are telling me something I did not know,” Searing confessed.

Richard Searing, who founded Searing Industries with his sons, was responsible for Lee’s devotion to the game. He died 17 years ago.

“My dad loved cheap horses and loved Caliente, Los Alamitos, and Pomona,” Searing said. “He probably would have been set back a little bit by the amount of money we’ve spent and the quality of horses we’ve bought. But boy would he have enjoyed our success.”

The best 3-year-old the Searings ever owned was Cindago, who was both brittle and brilliant and ran only three times, winning the 2006 El Cajon Stakes at Del Mar. Kobe’s Luck and Candy Boy could take them to places Cindago only promised.

“I don’t want to get too much ahead of things, because I’ve done this for a long time,” Searing said. “The disappointments can be huge, and the enjoyments can be just as huge. They just don’t come as often. But when they do, there’s nothing like it.”