02/27/2011 4:22PM

Twirling Candy topweighted at 122 for Santa Anita Handicap

Benoit & Associates
Twirling Candy will try to follow up his easy Strub win with a victory in the Big Cap on Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Twirling Candy will carry top weight of 122 pounds when he attempts to win his third consecutive stakes in Saturday’s $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap.

The winner of the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes in track record time on Dec. 26, and the effortless winner of the Grade 2 Strub Stakes on Feb. 5, Twirling Candy will be a strong favorite in the Big Cap, which is run over 1 1/4 miles and is the top race for older horses in California in the first half of the year.

Trainer John Sadler’s confidence in the 4-year-old colt soared after a seven-furlong workout in 1:25 at Santa Anita on Sunday.

“He went so well this morning,” Sadler said.

Owned by Jenny Craig, Twirling Candy will be part of a field that could have as many 11 runners. The Big Cap will be Twirling Candy’s first start outside his age group since a fourth in the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes as the 7-10 favorite against older horses at Hollywood Park last October. The Goodwood is Twirling Candy’s only loss in seven starts, which includes four stakes wins.

Twirling Candy’s weight assignment for the Big Cap is 4 to 10 pounds higher than the other probable starters. The actual spread in the weights at post time will be less because some of the jockeys expected to ride the lower-weighted horses tack higher weights than what their horses have been assigned.

The other probable starters are Aggie Engineer, 118 pounds; Gladding, 117; First Dude and Tweebster, 116; Game on Dude, Quindici Man, and Spurrier, 115; Soul Candy, 114; and Pode Ir and Setsuko, 112.

Sadler waited until Sunday morning before deciding whether to work Twirling Candy or wait until Monday. Rain fell late Friday and early Saturday, and Sadler wanted to assess the main track before proceeding.

“I’m pleased with the way this worked out,” Sadler said.

Twirling Candy worked in company with the claimer Hammurabi, who started a few lengths in front. Hammurabi worked six furlongs in 1:13.40, while Twirling Candy went the longer distance.

Sadler also worked Gladding, who went seven furlongs in 1:24.80, the fastest of three recorded works at the distance, all by Big Cap hopefuls. Owned by CRK Stable, Gladding won the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 6.

Setsuko, second in the 2010 Santa Anita Derby, worked seven furlongs in 1:25.60. Trained by Richard Mandella, Setsuko was seventh behind Twirling Candy in the Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, when Twirling Candy was timed in 1:19.70. Setsuko was later fourth in an optional claimer.

At Hollywood Park, Spurrier worked six furlongs in 1:11.20, the fastest of seven works at the distance. A 6-year-old, Spurrier was second by a length to Gladding in the San Antonio.