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SIDNEY’S CANDY SWEET ON LEAD IN SANTA ANITA DERBY FIREWORKS FOLLOW RACE SEEN BY 40,718 ON-TRACK
By BETH HARRIS
AP Racing Writer
ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) _ Sidney's Candy led all the way in winning the Gr. I Santa Anita Derby. Behind him, drama unfolded for 4-5 favorite Lookin At Lucky, whose troubled third-place finish set off the tempers of jockey Garrett Gomez, trainer Bob Baffert and his wife.
Sidney's Candy won by 4½ lengths Saturday, giving 20-year-old jockey Joe Talamo a Kentucky Derby contender a year after his mount I Want Revenge was scratched as the early favorite the morning of the race.
After bobbling at the start, Talamo took Sidney's Candy to the lead, just as they did in winning the San Vicente and San Felipe on the same synthetic surface. The colt ran 1 1-8 miles in 1:48.00 to win the West Coast's major prep for the May 1 Kentucky Derby.
Setsuko, runner-up in the Sham, rallied from last in the 10-horse field to finish second.
Lookin At Lucky was fourth much of the way before being shuffled back in the incident. He re-rallied on the inside to hit the board 1½ lengths back in third.
Afterward, Baffert blasted Gomez for what he called a "horrendous" ride.
"I cannot believe he rode him that way. It's ridiculous," the Hall of Famer said. "When I saw him on the rail, I said, `What is he doing?'"
Gomez didn't speak to Baffert immediately after the race, but when informed of the trainer's comments, he said, "I thought I was riding a good race. We were in a perfect trip. What happened shouldn't have happened."
A stewards inquiry was posted after the race for an incident involving Lookin At Lucky, who took up near the five-sixteenths pole. He appeared to get squeezed down along the rail, forcing Gomez to stand up in the saddle.
"I almost went over his head because he (Victor Espinoza) bounced me off the fence and then my horse stuck his legs in the ground to make sure he was protecting himself," he said. "He stopped to a walk."
But there was no disqualification because the other horses involved, Who's Up and Alphie's Bet, finished behind Lookin At Lucky.
"It looked so bad in front of me," said Paul Atkinson, who was aboard Caracortado and closely trailing Gomez at the time. "I said to myself, `He's going down, we're both going down' because there was nowhere I could go. Thank God we didn't fall."
An angry Gomez went after Espinoza, who rode Who's Up, near the scales where the riders weigh out after races. Gomez landed punches before they were separated.
"That's between me and him," Gomez said.
He said Espinoza was exacting revenge for an incident between them in a race earlier in the week. He claimed Espinoza returned to the jockeys' room and said, "I told you I'd get you." Espinoza denied making the comment.
"I understand he's angry because he's riding the favorite and he got beat," said Espinoza, who finished ninth. "It was a really tight spot and the turn is getting closer and closer. There's not enough room to be in there. I'm trying to help him out as much as I can."
Gomez said Espinoza's horse was running out of gas at that point and he should've dropped back, leaving room for Lookin At Lucky along the rail.
"I was right in behind him (Sidney's Candy) and traveling well," Gomez said. "I was just waiting to slide out. It was a matter of two or three jumps and I was going to be out of there."
But Baffert insisted Gomez never should've been in that spot.
"You can't be on the inside on this track," he said. "He took him back and he was fighting him."
Asked if he would consider replacing Gomez for the Kentucky Derby, Baffert said, "I'm not even thinking about it right now. I was just disappointed the way he rode the horse. He never gave him a chance, he never put him in a spot to win. Garrett is a smart rider. I don't know why he takes that horse back. He wants to race."
Baffert was in the saddling area to oversee his three entries in another stakes race when Espinoza walked by. "Are you trying to kill my jockey?" he said.
Baffert's wife, Jill, then lit into Espinoza, asking why he tried to unseat Gomez. Espinoza repeatedly denied any wrongdoing as she continued her rant while her husband and fans watched.
Sent off at 7-2 odds, Sidney's Candy paid $9.60, $5.40 and $3 for owner Jenny Craig, the weight loss maven who named the colt after her late husband Sid. Setsuko returned $10 and $4.80, while Lookin At Lucky paid $2.10 to show.
Caracortado was fourth, followed by Skipshot, Sham winner Alphie's Bet, Thomas Baines, Posse Power, Who's Up and Cardiff Giant.
The Derby was one of four graded stakes on Saturday’s program and it went as the sixth on an 11-race card.
The Gr. II Arcadia Handicap, carded as race four, went to California-bred Compari, who won by one-half length in a dominating performance under Gomez.
The 4-year-old gelding by Redattore hopped slightly at the break but established control of the one mile affair on turf going into the Club House turn. “He’s improved so much, he’s just a cool dude now,” said Gomez. “I mean, we went the half in 47 and two and it felt like 50. He’s like a sprinter slowing ’em down.”
Trained by Marty Jones and owned by his breeders, John Nicoletti, Don Valpredo and John Harris, Compari was the 2-1 favorite and paid $6.00, $3.40 and $2.60. He completed the mile in 1:34.03 after setting fractions of 23.44, 47.44, 1:11.28 and 1:22.72.
The $90,000 winner’s share boosted Compari’s earnings to $412,640. He is now 6-0-1 from seven starts.
Fluke and Joe Talamo ran second, paying $3.60 and $2.40. Battle of Hastings, who lacked room turning into the stretch under Tyler Baze, paid $2.40 to show.
Jones indicated that the Gr. I Woodford Reserve at 1 1/8 miles on turf on May 1 at Churchill Downs was a possibility for Compari’s next start as is the Gr. I Shoemaker mile (turf) at Hollywood Park on May 31.
Although they experienced misfortune in the Santa Anita Derby, Baffert and Gomez collaborated for victory in the Gr. II, $150,000 Potrero Grande Handicap, which was carded as race eight.
Gomez guided favored Ventana to a nose victory over Gato Go Win and Rafael Bejarano.
“He showed a lot of heart and a lot of gameness,” said Gomez. “First time I’ve been on him and he ran a really good race.”
Ventana, a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred colt by Toccet, paid $5.20, $2.80 and $2.40. Gato Go Win paid $3.20 and $3.00. Third-place finisher E Z’s Gentlemen, with Joel Rosario up, paid $3.60 to show.
Ventana, who stalked fractions of 22.27, 44.91 and 1:08.77, got the 6 ½ furlong Potrero Grande distance in 1:15.03.
“We bought him as a 2-year-old and he didn’t pan out,” said Baffert. “He’s finally coming around now. Garrett Gomez was on his belly there…I’m tellin’ you, he’s like riding to keep his job. We’ll probably run this horse back in the Churchill Downs Handicap (Gr. II, May 1).”
With the $90,000 winner’s purse, Ventana increased his earnings to $256,517 and ran his race record to 3-4-2 from 14 starts.
The Gr. II, $150,000 Providencia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles on turf went as the ninth race and was won by City to City, under Joel Rosario. A Kentucky-bred filly by City Zip, she prevailed in game fashion by one-half length at odds of 9-2.
Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, City to City won her second stakes in-a-row for owners William DeBurgh, Mark DeDominico and Hollendorfer. She paid $11.60, $6.00 and $3.80.
Irish-bred Andina finished well under Talamo, running second and paying $5.60 and $3.40. In the Slips, the 5-2 favorite with Gomez, finished another length back in third, paying $2.60 to show.
City to City got the distance in 1:47.16. The interior fractions were 23.53, 47.69, 1:11.64 and 1:35.55.
City to City picked up $90,000 for the win, running her earnings to $193,054. Her career record stands at 5-2-2 from 11 starts.
Santa Anita offers a nine-race program on Easter Sunday, with the Gr. III Las Flores Handicap serving as the main event. First post time is 12:30 p.m.