SADLER HOLDS THE ACES AS SANTA ANITA OPENS 74TH SEASON ON SUNDAY OVER NEW DIRT TRACK; TWIRLING CANDY FACES 10 IN MALIBU STAKES

ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 22, 2010) – The racing surface may have been changed, but John Sadler takes aim on extending his constant of two straight training titles when Santa Anita opens its 74th season on Sunday with four stakes races – two of them Grade I events – on a nine-race program that begins at 12 noon.

Sadler will send out Del Mar Derby winner Twirling Candy as well as Don Tito in the Grade I, $250,000 Malibu Stakes, favored Switch in the Grade I, $250,000 La Brea Stakes, likely choice Sidney’s Candy in the Grade II, $150,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes and contender Contemplated in the 71st running of the $100,000 California Breeders’ Champion Stakes.

The live racing program at Santa Anita will be its first since April 18, and its first since the installation of a new traditional dirt main track after three years of mandated competition over a controversial synthetic surface. All fans in attendance will receive Santa Anita’s traditional wall calendar, a giveaway that is immensely popular among the track’s promotions.

The 59th running of the Malibu, for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs, attracted an eclectic group of eleven. Jenny Craig’s Twirling Candy will attempt to atone for a disappointing fourth that ended a four-race unbeaten streak when favored at 7-10 odds in Oak Tree’s Grade I Goodwood Stakes at Hollywood Park on Oct. 2. “He wasn’t himself that day,” commented Sadler. “He was kind of crampy after the race. The time off has been good for him.”

The homebred son of Candy Ride, who will be ridden by Joel Rosario, faces no easy task while attempting to build upon earnings of $309,900. The competition includes multiple Grade I winner Smiling Tiger; Bob Baffert’s unbeaten Alcindor; sensational comebacker Caracortado; Eastern based Noble’s Promise, the field’s leading earner with a bankroll of $946,703, and Thiskyhasnolimit, a winner of three stakes who gives Steve Asmussen, the nation’s Eclipse Award-winning trainer the past two years, an immediate presence in Southern California. Asmussen, who has never won a race here with only two past starters, has further extended his national presence in view of Santa Anita’s transition to a new all-natural main track and higher overnight purse structure this season. He currently has 28 horses here.

Northern California- based Smiling Tiger was given some time off after finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6. He crossed the wire less than two lengths behind victorious Big Drama. During the previous three months, Smiling Tiger captured Oak Tree’s Grade I Ancient Title Stakes at Hollywood Park and Del Mar’s Grade I Bing Crosby. Never worse than third in 10 starts, the son of Hold That Tiger has earned $717,864 from five wins for owners Alan Klein and Philip Lebherz. With Russell Baze aboard for trainer Jeff Bonde, Smiling Tiger will carry high weight of 123 pounds while spotting each of his rivals five pounds.

Alcindor, who will be guided by Rafael Bejarano, Santa Anita’s riding champion the past three years, has raced but twice for Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable. But the stately son of Unbridled’s Song turned heads with a sparkling allowance race victory by 7 ½ lengths under Bejarano at Hollywood Park on Nov. 28. While doing so, he covered the Malibu distance in a swift 1:21 3/5. Alcindor was purchased for $1.15 million at the 2008 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Caracortado, a winner of his first five starts including Santa Anita’s Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes last March, returned from a seventh-place finish in the Preakness Stakes with a smashing allowance-race triumph over six furlongs on turf at Hollywood Park Nov. 11. He was clocked in 1:07 3/5. Joe Talamo rides the California-bred gelding trained by Michael Machowsky. Caracortado has won 6 of 9 starts while earning $296,520 for Blahut Racing and Hi Lo Racing.

Trained by Kenny McPeek for Chasing Dreams Racing, Noble’s Promise is coming off a 2 ¼-length win at six furlongs in the Jimmy V Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. The Curvee colt has posted a 4-3-1 record in 11 starts. He is a Grade I winner after having taken Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity in 2009. Noble’s Promise followed that with a third-place finish behind Veil of York and Lookin At Lucky in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. Just one-half length separated the three. Julien Leparoux will fly in from Kentucky to ride Noble’s Promise.

Garrett Gomez, attempting to nail down a fifth consecutive national earnings title while closely trailing Ramon Dominguez and John Velazquez, has the mount on Thiskyhasnolimit for Asmussen. The Sky Mesa colt’s only graded victory came in the Grade III Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs 13 months ago. He has earned $547,532 from a 4-3-1 mark in 12 starts.

With horses racing competitively for the first time over Santa Anita’s new dirt surface, time records will revert to years preceding 2007. No matter how swift the track plays on Sunday, the Malibu Stakes record is unlikely to be matched. The mark of 1:20 was set by the legendary Spectacular Bid in 1980.

The complete field for the eighth-race Malibu Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Paris Vegas, Corey Nakatani, 118; Alcindor, Rafael Bejarano, 118; Thiskyhasnolimit, Garrett Gomez, 118; Caracortado, Joseph Talamo, 118; Noble’s Promise, Julien Leparoux, 118; Setsuko, Alex Solis, 118; Don Tito, Patrick Valenzuela, 118; Thomas Baines, Martin Pedroza, 118; Twirling Candy, Joel Rosario, 118; Our Minesweeper, Brice Blanc, 118, and Smiling Tiger, Russell Baze, 123.

The 38th running of the La Brea, also at seven furlongs but for 3-year-old fillies, figures to be the property of Sadler and Rosario for a second consecutive season after the pair teamed with Evita Argentina one year ago. Their Switch figures to be solidly favored among 13 entrants in the La Brea.

The daughter of Quiet American has been freshened since running second to Dubai Majesty in the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Churchill Downs following a half-length loss to Zenyatta in Oak Tree’s Grade I Lady’s Secret Stakes at Hollywood Park. Owned by C R K Stable, Switch has banked $482,600 from a record of 3-3-2 in 10 races.

Her competition includes Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint favorite Champagne d’Oro, who faded to fourth in the Grade I at seven furlongs. She finished 6 ¾ lengths behind the winner and 4 ½ lengths behind Switch. Two races prior to that, Champagne d’Oro had run off with Saratoga’s prestigious Grade I Test Stakes, winning by 4 ½ lengths. Midwest-based Michael Baze will ride the Medaglia d’Oro filly trained by Eric Guilllot for Southern Equine Stable. Her earnings have reached $563,465 from a 3-3-1 showing in 14 starts. Champagne d’Oro will carry high weight of 123 pounds with her 12 opponents weighted at 118.

Baffert’s speedy Always a Princess will be ridden by Bejarano for the first time. Owned and bred by Arnold Zetcher, Always a Princess was a 3 ¼-length winner of the Grade II Indiana Oaks at Hoosier Park last October before encountering misfortune in her last start, the Grade II Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6. The chestnut daughter of Leroidesanimaux stumbled badly at the start before checking in third as the 7-5 favorite in the one-mile event.

The complete field for the sixth-race La Brea Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Pica Slew, Talamo, 118; Tornado Betty, Valenzuela, 118; Switch, Rosario, 118; Patriotic Viva, Mike Smith, 118; La Nez, Victor Espinoza, 118; It Tiz, David Flores, 118; Malibu Pier, Gomez, 118; Hard Way Ten, Solis, 118; Always a Princess, Bejarano, 118; Shotgun Gulch, Alonso Quinonez, 118; Champagne d’Oro, Michael Baze, 123; Arte Viva, Blanc, 118, and Bonnie Blue Flag, Nakatani, 118.

Sidney’s Candy returns for Sadler and Jenny Craig’s Craig Family Trust in the Sir Beaufort for 3-year-olds at one mile on turf. With Rosario aboard and carrying high weight of 123 pounds, he figures to be heavily favored among nine entrants.

A 4 ½-length, wire-to-wire winner of last season’s Santa Anita Derby while leaving favored Lookin At Lucky in his wake, Sidney’s Candy faltered badly in the Kentucky Derby. He rebounded in August to wire the field by 5 ½ lengths in Del Mar’s Grade II La Jolla Handicap in his first start on grass. In the Breeders’ Cup Mile, he led until the eighth pole, winding up sixth but only three lengths behind victorious Goldikova, the superb French mare. Sidney’s Candy has been freshened since the Breeders’ Cup.

The complete field for the seventh-race Sir Beaufort Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Blue Panis, Talamo, 118; Nextdoorneighbor, Espinoza, 118; Bogie, Gomez, 118; Sebastian Flyte, Leparoux, 118; Sidney’s Candy, Rosario, 123; Indian Firewater, Bejarano, 118; Stephen’s Got Hope, 118; Make Music for Me, Smith, 118, and Accelerant, Quinonez, 117.

Contemplated, a gelded son of Bertrando trained by Sadler for Pam and Martin Wygod, will be among the contenders in the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes for 2-year-olds at seven furlongs. Nine juveniles were entered. Gab Power and Offlee Wild Boys are the field’s only two-time winners. The emergent winner on Sunday will gain his first stakes victory.

The complete field for the fifth-race California Breeders’ Champion Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Contemplated, Rosario, 117; Woodmans Luck, Flores, 117; Gab Power, Valenzuela, 115; Thirtyfirststreet, Bejarano, 117; Tappin Tough, Nakatani, 117; Offlee Wild Boys, Gomez, 115; Real Cool Dude, Pedroza, 117; Make It Cozy, Espinoza, 115, and Arresting Officer, Talamo, 117.

During its opening week, Santa Anita will present races each day except Tuesday before settling into a regular schedule that includes four days of racing each week in January and February (five days on two holiday weeks) before going to a five-day race week in March. The 76-day winter/spring meet will conclude on April 17.

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