02/08/2014 8:13PM

Santa Anita: Candy Boy impressive taking Robert Lewis Stakes

Benoit & Associates
Jockey Gary Stevens said Candy Boy outperformed expectations with how well he ran in the Robert Lewis.

ARCADIA, Calif. – It took Candy Boy four starts to finally beat maidens, but he has gotten the hang of things rather quickly since. He subsequently finished second in the CashCall Futurity to Eclipse Award winner Shared Belief, and on Saturday at Santa Anita continued his progress as one of the nation’s top 3-year-olds by capturing the Grade 2, $200,500 Robert Lewis Stakes.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Candy Boy ($6.60) just did get up late to beat Chitu, but he was just getting started when the 1 1/16-mile race finished. Candy Boy continued to gallop out strongly, indicative of a colt who will welcome additional distance.

“When I pulled him up, I checked all the gauges, and they were all full,” said his jockey, Gary Stevens.

The Lewis was worth 10 points for first (with 4 for second, 2 for third, and 1 for fourth) under the system used by Churchill Downs to determine the field for the May 3 Kentucky Derby should more than the maximum 20 horses enter.

Candy Boy, who started from the rail, got a perfect trip under Stevens. He sat fourth early in the seven-horse field as Diamond Bachelor, hounded by Chitu, went to the lead and set solid fractions of 23.33 seconds for the opening quarter, 46.80 for a half-mile, and 1:10.84 for six furlongs.

Midnight Hawk loomed up three paths wide on the far turn, while Stevens patiently sat inside with Candy Boy. Stevens wheeled him out to the middle of the track for the stretch run, and Candy Boy closed stoutly to complete 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:41.83. He beat Chitu by a half-length, with Midnight Hawk another 1 1/4 lengths back in third. Both Chitu and Midnight Hawk are trained by Bob Baffert.

Diamond Bachelor was fourth and was followed, in order, by Home Run Kitten, Cool Samurai, and El Nino Terrible.

“He’s my number one draft choice,” Stevens said. “That was a nice performance he put on against a nice group of horses. I expected him to run well, but he surpassed my expectations.”

Candy Boy, a colt by Candy Ride, is trained by John Sadler and was bred and is owned by the C R K Stable of Lee and Susan Searing. He is out of the In Excess mare She’s an Eleven.

“Gary gave him a perfect trip,” Sadler said.

Stevens also was instrumental one week earlier in Candy Boy’s final work, when a horse broke down in front of him just as Candy Boy was coming to the wire. He just did dodge catastrophe while traveling six furlongs in 1:13.

Midnight Hawk had won both his prior starts, including the Sham Stakes last month. He was a bit rank going into the first turn when behind horses, but “had no excuse,” said his jockey, Mike Smith.