04/03/2010 11:00PM

Sidney's Candy wins a rough derby

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Benoit & Associates
Despite a poor start, Sidney's Candy was able to take early control of Saturday's Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and win by 4 1/2 lengths.

ARCADIA, Calif. - They were stumblin' and then rumblin' on Saturday at the , in which Sidney's Candy overcame a stumble at the start to lead from virtually start to finish, and a bumping incident on the far turn severely impacted favored Lookin At Lucky.

The bumping led to a brouhaha between Lookin At Lucky's rider, Garrett Gomez, and Victor Espinoza, who rode Who's Up, after the pair dismounted following the race and then again later in the jockeys' room.

Sidney's Candy ($9.60) quickly recovered from his poor start and went right to the front, then set comfortable fractions of 24 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 48.50 seconds for a half-mile, and 1:12.33 for six furlongs before tearing through the final three furlongs in 35.67 seconds to win the 1 1/8-mile race by 4 1/2 lengths in 1:48 flat on Pro-Ride.

By racing in front, Sidney's Candy was able to avoid the traffic jam behind him at the three-furlong pole. Lookin At Lucky, the 4-5 favorite, was trying to come through inside horses when he bounced off the rail and got shuffled back. He rallied bravely to finish third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Setsuko - who closed from last to finish second - but Gomez was furious after the race. He took a swing at Espinoza near the scales where riders weigh-in adjacent to the winner's circle. Their dispute continued in the jockeys' room.

"I was inside him, and he came over," Gomez said, referring to Espinoza. "He was out of horse."

Who's Up faded to finish ninth in the field of 10.

Espinoza maintained that Gomez should not have been there.

"When we got to the turn, it got tighter and tighter," Espinoza said. "It was one of those things. He [Espinoza said, referring to Gomez] took a shot. It was one of those situations where there was not enough room in there."

According to other jockeys in the room after the race, Gomez went after Espinoza, and though they pushed, and loud, unprintable words were exchanged, they were separated and no other punches were thrown. One rider, who asked not to be identified, was asked who won.

"The stewards," he cracked.

Sidney's Candy and Lookin At Lucky are guaranteed spots in the Kentucky Derby in four weeks. Setsuko's graded stakes earnings will put him on the bubble, though trainer Richard Mandella wants to go. "We were just practicing today," he joked.

The horse who might have had the worst luck of all was Caracortado, whose rider, Paul Atkinson, had to slam on the brakes on the far turn while following Lookin At Lucky. Caracortado rallied strongly to finish fourth in a deceptively good effort, but now may not have enough graded stakes earnings to make the Derby.

"I thought Garrett's horse was going to fall, and I was right behind him," Atkinson said.

Sidney's Candy, jockey Joe Talamo, owner Jenny Craig, and trainer John Sadler were the day's big winners.

Sidney's Candy, a colt by Candy Ride, won his third straight stakes race this meet, following the San Vicente and San Felipe.

Talamo winds up with a live Kentucky Derby mount, one year after I Want Revenge, the 2009 favorite and Talamo's mount that day, was scratched the morning of the race.

Craig, the diet guru, owns Sidney's Candy and bred him with her husband, Sid, who died before his namesake ran.

Sadler, the leading trainer at the meet, said he was "really happy" with the outcome.

"I thought he was much stronger than last time," Sadler said. "He had trained stronger. This was a big race. I was nervous at the start, but he got right back up."

Oftentimes when horses stumble at the start, they tear off a piece of flesh when their hind leg overreaches and grabs the back of a front hoof, a process known as "grabbing a quarter." Sadler said Sidney's Candy did not appear to have injured himself.

"At first glance, it doesn't appear he grabbed himself," said Sadler, who said he would decide on Sunday when to ship Sidney's Candy, and Santa Anita Oaks winner Crisp - who runs in the Kentucky Oaks - to Churchill Downs.

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