02/24/2011 3:42PM

Uncertain path for Twirling Candy beyond Santa Anita Handicap

Benoit & Associates
Trainer John Sadler is keeping plans for Twirling Candy beyond the March 5 Santa Anita Handicap under wraps.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The partial sale of Twirling Candy to Marty Wygod and Lane’s End Farm announced on Thursday will not affect the 4-year-old colt’s 2011 racing season, said trainer John Sadler.

Next Saturday, March 5, Twirling Candy, the winner of the Malibu and Strub stakes, will be favored to win the $750,000 Santa Anita Handicap.

In the long term, it is likely that Twirling Candy will be pointed for the Pacific Classic in August at Del Mar, which is near the home of owner Jenny Craig, and a track that she enthusiastically supports.

Between the Big Cap and the Pacific Classic, Sadler has a plan, but is not quite ready to share it, he said on Thursday.

“I’ve thought about it, but I’m not saying anything until next weekend,” he said, in reference to the timing of the Big Cap.

Asked if Twirling Candy could make a quick turnaround for the $10 million Dubai World Cup in the Middle East on March 26, Sadler deflected the inquiry. “I’m not saying anything,” he said, playfully.

Of a more immediate concern is the weekend forecast in Southern California and how it may affect Twirling Candy’s workout schedule in the build-up to the Big Cap, which is run over 1 1/4 miles. Rain is expected on Friday and Saturday, which could interfere with Sadler’s plan to work Twirling Candy on Sunday.

“The key for me is what day to work him,” Sadler said. “I haven’t had time to look at the weather. Sunday would be ideal. He can go Monday if he has to. He can go to Hollywood Park if he has to.”

In recent months, when wet weather has led to the occasional closure of Santa Anita’s sand-and-clay main track for morning training, some trainers have sent horses to Hollywood Park to work on the Cushion Track synthetic surface, which has better absorbed the rain. Last Monday, trainer Bob Baffert worked his Kentucky Derby hopeful Jaycito at Hollywood Park to stay on schedule for the $250,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on March 12.

There were no weather interruptions at Santa Anita on Thursday, a clear morning. Twirling Candy galloped 1 1/2 miles, Sadler said.

“He looked beautiful,” he said.

Twirling Candy has risen in prominence this winter. He set a seven-furlong track record of 1:19.70 in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, and won the Grade 2 Strub Stakes against fellow 4-year-olds by 4 1/2 lengths under a hand ride on Feb. 5.

Bred by Craig and her late husband, Sidney, Twirling Candy has won 6 of 7 starts and $579,900. His only loss was a fourth in the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes at Hollywood Park in October

Big Cap could lure field of 10

Twirling Candy is part of a projected field of 10 in the Big Cap.

The outsiders Pode Ir and Setsuko, first and fourth in an optional claimer on Jan. 17, are expected to start.

Pode Ir, a 5-year-old Brazilian-bred, followed his win in the optional claimer with a last-place finish in a field of six in the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes on Feb. 6. Trainer A.C. Avila said that Pode Ir bled in that race.

Setsuko was second in the Santa Anita Derby last April. He has made two starts this winter since returning from an eight-month layoff.

“I’m thinking of taking a shot,” trainer Richard Mandella said of the Big Cap.

The other probable starters include the first four finishers of the San Antonio Stakes – Gladding, Spurrier, Aggie Engineer and Quindici Man; Soul Candy, third in the Sunshine Millions Turf on Jan. 29; Tweebster, the runner-up in the Strub Stakes; and Game On Dude, the winner of an optional claimer on Jan. 27.

Mr. Commons auditions for stakes shot

Mr. Commons makes his third start on as many different surfaces in a $56,000 allowance race in Saturday’s eighth race. The race will determine how he is campaigned over coming months, with possibly lofty goals on the horizon.

After finishing sixth in his debut in a maiden race on Cushion Track at Hollywood Park on Dec. 18, Mr. Commons rebounded to win a maiden race for turf sprinters by 5 1/2 lengths here on Jan. 15.

Saturday’s race over a mile on a conventional sand-and-clay track could lead to a start in a major stakes for 3-year-olds this spring, perhaps even the Santa Anita Derby on April 9.

“This time of year, you have to explore that option,” trainer John Shirreffs said. “Whether it turns out he does or doesn’t like it, the timing requires to try it.”

Shirreffs needs help with Saturday’s conditions. Rain is forecast, and Shirreffs would prefer not racing on a sealed racetrack.

“I’m putting my faith in the weatherman – that he’s wrong,” Shirreffs said.

The allowance race drew a field of six, including Wegner, who was sixth in the Robert Lewis Stakes here on Feb. 12 and Chiloquin, who has won his last two starts in sprints and makes his first start around two turns.