09/21/2003 11:00PM

Perhaps Candy Ride went sour

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NEW YORK - The timing of the announcement that Candy Ride will not run in the Breeders' Cup classic, coming five weeks before Breeders' Cup Day, is almost as revealing as the words spoken by Candy Ride's connections.

I do not believe that this combined with Perfect Drift skipping the Breeders' Cup Classic is suddenly the start of an anti-Breeders' Cup Classic movement. I also do not believe that this has anything to do with how much it would cost to make Candy Ride eligible to the Breeders' Cup.

The $800,000 necessary to supplement Candy Ride to the Classic is a ton of money. But, owners Sid and Jenny Craig have always been sporting, and they did have other alternatives. If the $800,000 really was an issue, Candy Ride could have instead been supplemented to a race like the Mile for a cost of $300,000. Given that Candy Ride beat the top-class turf miler Special Ring in the American Handicap on turf last July, and in light of the very unsettled nature of the turf division, a win in the Mile could well have netted Candy Ride an Eclipse Award as champion turf horse.

Candy Ride has raced all of three times this calendar year and all of six times in his life. I believe the notion that a horse like Candy Ride is in need of a rest because he's been in training too long adds greatly to the suspicion that the horse is suffering from an undisclosed injury. Otherwise, it doesn't make a lot of sense to turn your back on a $4 million race only five weeks away that you have an excellent chance to win - a race in which a victory would catapult your horse to Horse of the Year and handicap division honors - in favor of the promise of a successful campaign next year. And make no mistake, Candy Ride would have had an excellent chance to win the Classic. He probably would have been the favorite, or a strong second choice.

One thing we may see anyway, even with Candy Ride going underground for a while, is lobbying for Candy Ride to be Horse of the Year, lobbying that could become aggressive depending on what happens in the major late-season stakes races. I don't care if the longest shot on the board wins Saturday's Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont, and I don't care if the winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic pays so much to win that he makes Arcangues look like a chalk special, any campaign to make Candy Ride Horse of the Year would be insulting to the intelligence, and should be ignored.

Still, I can see it now. The Candy Ride lobbyists will speak of the 123 Beyer Speed Figure he received winning the Pacific Classic at Del Mar, and how it is the highest Beyer assigned to any horse at any distance over any surface so far this year. I appreciate how monumental a task Beyer and Associates have in assigning a speed figure to every race at every track in North America, but I am skeptical of the Pacific Classic figure. I don't see how Pacific Classic runner-up Medaglia d'Oro, coming back on short rest after a gut-wrenching effort winning the Whitney off a layoff - a bounce scenario if there ever was one - would actually improve on the 114 Beyer he received for winning the Whitney to a 118 in the Pacific Classic. Not after Medaglia d'Oro was so empty and rubber legged in the stretch of the Pacific Classic that, on a very quick track, he required around 25 slow seconds to complete his final quarter mile.

Even if you believe Candy Ride's Pacific Classic Beyer, any candidacy on his part for Horse of the Year is still not worth discussion. If Mineshaft should never set another foot on a racetrack - Mineshaft is scheduled to compete in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and Breeders' Cup Classic - he has already this year won twice as many races (6 to 3), three times as many stakes (6 to 3), and three times as many Grade 1 stakes (3 to 1) while being seen in four times as many states (4 to 1), and 2 1/2 times as many tracks (5 to 2).

In the 3-year-old division, Ten Most Wanted is doing everything in his power to advance his candidacy for the title. And, with his decisive victory over Soto in Saturday's Super Derby at Louisiana Downs to go along with his daylight victory in the Travers Stakes last month, Ten Most Wanted's candidacy is gaining in momentum.

In truth, Ten Most Wanted's case for a divisional title may have come too late, because before his current hot streak, he was 0-for-3 against Empire Maker, and 0-for-1 against Funny Cide. But, there may not be a more dangerous 3-year-old pointing to the Breeders' Cup Classic, and that includes Empire Maker. Who knows what we're going to get out of Empire Maker at this stage of the game?