04/07/2010 11:00PM

Santa Anita roundup

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SOFT-PACE DERBY

Want to back Sidney's Candy in the Kentucky Derby? Good luck. Sidney's Candy crushed by 4 1/2 lengths April 3 for his third consecutive stakes win, but he also had another soft trip. After a slight stumble, Sidney's Candy crawled up front with zero pressure, waltzing the opening half in 48.50 and six furlongs in 1:12.33. No surprise that Sidney's Candy (overlay at $9.60) was gone.

Good for him. But also, good luck to Sidney's Candy when he faces true fractions in the Kentucky Derby. It is one thing to win slow-pace route races (Sidney's Candy won also on a slow-pace, lonely lead), it's another thing entirely to win a 1 1/4-mile rodeo such as the Kentucky Derby by setting or chasing legitimate fractions.

Sidney's Candy might be up to the challenge. But the Santa Anita Derby was not a true test, no matter how visually impressive the winner may have been. And the race certainly was not as good as the margin (four-plus lengths) or figure (100 Beyer). Sidney's Candy, because he is a good horse, took advantage of favorable circumstance. And he remains unproven against adversity (same as Eskendereya).

Furthermore, Sidney's Candy has not had a horse in front of him his last three starts. Think that will happen again in Kentucky? Better think again. It takes more than a lonely lead, soft-pace stakes win to prepare a horse to win the Kentucky Derby. And call it a surprise if an unseasoned front-runner such as Sidney's Candy hits the board on the first Saturday in May.

Santa Anita Derby runner-up Setsuko ran well, rallying from last behind the slow pace to finish a strong second. With $180,000 in graded earnings, Setsuko should make the cut for the Derby, and 1 1/4 miles should be just right. But it cannot be ignored Setsuko benefitted from the trouble that compromised Lookin At Lucky. If Lookin At Lucky had not been stopped, Setsuko would have finished third. Yet even if Setsuko was third-best in the Santa Anita Derby, he is a live longshot that will be running through the Churchill Downs stretch.

Caracortado had a bad trip and ran fourth. He was stuck behind Lookin At Lucky, took up and lost position on the far turn and fell back to ninth, then rerallied. Bad trip, good try. But with $153,000 in graded earnings Caracortado is on the bubble for the Derby. Alphie's Bet was compromised by a wide trip and finished sixth. He is all but out of the Derby picture.

WHO'S NOT 'LUCKY'

Lookin At Lucky had a nightmare trip as the 4-5 Santa Anita Derby favorite; trainer Bob Baffert pinned blame on jockey Garrett Gomez, calling his ride "horrendous." Lookin At Lucky was positioned fourth on the rail. On the far turn, he steadied sharply and lost position when the horse to his outside, Who's Up, tightened it up. Lookin At Lucky was shuffled back and amazingly rerallied to third.

"It was bad luck. It was a bad trip. You can't be on the inside on this track," Baffert said. "He [Garrett Gomez] took him back, and he was fighting him. It was horrendous; his ride was horrendous."

Baffert noted the pace dynamics of the synthetic surface: "They're not going to go fast. [Gomez is] so afraid to let this horse run early, and it's a shame, because that's not Garrett. I don't know why. He threw an interception."

Sunday, Baffert said Lookin At Lucky "looks fantastic" and that Gomez would retain the mount. "Garrett came by the barn [Sunday], and we talked things over. I didn't like where the horse was the first 100 yards, but I should have told Garrett exactly what to do. I just left it up to him, and I messed it up."

Gomez, quoted after the race, described the incident: "I was traveling good, and the next thing I knew, Victor Espinoza [on Who's Up] came down on top of me and took me into the fence. He had my horse tipped sideways. I mean, it was enough damage where it stopped me completely. And there was no cause for it. Victor was outside the horse that was on the lead, and the outside horse wasn't putting any pressure on him until he came down and put the pressure on me."

Gomez and Victor Espinoza engaged in fisticuffs after the race; Gomez said he thought Espinoza intentionally put him in a bad spot.

"When he started to get outrun a little bit, he just dropped in and nailed me against the fence. You could hear him right here: 'I told you I'd get you back.' That's why I went after him at the scales because I knew what it was about. He completely turned me sideways. But my horse actually got back on his feet. After that, I didn't want to be super hard on him. . . . There was no need for me to start banging on him in trying to run second or third when I know we've got another race ahead."

WHO'S HOT

By the time Impregnable started at 13-1 in a maiden-claiming race (April 2, race 5), the first three finishers from his last race had returned to win. Impregnable made it four winners by racing gate to wire, winning by more than six lengths and returning $29.20. Impregnable was exiting a live race; forgetful bettors will chalk it up as a missed opportunity.

Impregnable, trained by Mike Pender, was the first Santa Anita win for his jockey, Luis Medina. Medina, a 24-year-old native of Puerto Rico, rode Twin Peaks to victory in world-record time for six furlongs, 1:06.49, in the Caballo del Sol Stakes at Turf Paradise last Nov. 21.

Geovanni Franco, 19, looked good winning his first race at Santa Anita on April 2, guiding Sidepocket Lou to a 1 1/4-length victory for trainer Jorge Periban in race 4. It was Franco's 31st career win. The native of Mexico City had been riding at Hastings Park. Franco has a seven-pound apprentice allowance, his agent is Jim Pegram.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

Made for Magic won a second-level allowance race by nearly nine lengths April 2 because her main rival, Lady Alex, was eliminated at the start. The win by Made for Magic flattered Dance to My Tune, the front-runner she chased in . Dance to My Tune is expected to run April 16 in the $55,000 Santa Lucia Handicap.

Tuscan Evening will try for an unprecedented quadruple when she starts April 17 in the Grade 2 Santa Barbara at 1 1/4 miles on turf. Tuscan Evening has won three graded turf stakes already this meet, including the Monrovia at 6 1/2 furlongs; Buena Vista at one mile; and Santa Ana at 1 1/8 miles.

Tuscan Evening, by the way, is one of a handful of stakes winners this meet who won at least three times. The list also includes Sidney's Candy, Bourbon Bay, and Compari. Compari won his first graded stakes April 3, wiring . The win was the sixth straight win for Compari, a previous winner of three stakes for statebreds. Compari might be the best older male on the circuit heading into Hollywood Park, where last summer he won the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes on the main track.

Self Made, a John Sadler-trained 3-year-old California-bred, stamped himself as a candidate for the $200,000 Snow Chief Stakes on April 24 at Hollywood. Self Made, a debut sprint winner, stretched to two turns April 1 and defeated statebred allowance runners geared down. The last-to-first win was low-rated, however - 76 Beyer. Self Made would have his hands full with graded stakes winner Alphie's Bet if they meet in the Snow Chief.

HORSES TO WATCH

Uncle Don

Trainer: Richard Rosales

Last race: March 31, 3rd

Finish: 1st by 3 1/2

A Lemon Drop Kid gelding out of the top-class sprinter Soviet Problem, he ran super in a maiden-40 starter. He was sent fast early (21.69 seconds and 44.03), drew off, and earned a 95 Beyer Speed Figure that is good enough to win a first-level allowance for California-breds.

Runaway Bandido

Trainer: Rafael Becerra

Last race: April 1, 7th

Finish: 4th by 1

Synthetic surfaces are not the preferred footing for this good 3-year-old, who weakened late in a first-level route for California-breds. His best race was on turf. Look out when he returns to his preferred surface.

Lady Alex

Trainer: John Sadler

Last race: April 2, 7th

Finish: 4th by 11 1/2

A front-runner/pace-presser, she lost all chance at the break when she hopped and was away last in a second-condition route for fillies and mares. The race was hopelessly lost. She deserves another chance next time.

Setsuko

Trainer: Richard Mandella

Last race: April 3, 6th

Finish: 2nd by 4 1/2

An improving son of Pleasantly Perfect, this slow-developing colt has 1 1/4 miles written all over him. He closed from behind a slow pace in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, finished fast, and should love the longer distance and likely faster pace in the Kentucky Derby.