TWIRLING CANDY STRICTLY ONE TO BEAT IN SATURDAY’S HISTORIC STRUB STAKES WHILE UNBEATEN TURBULENT DESCENT TOPS GRADE I LAS VIRGENES

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 2, 2011) – Once-beaten 4-year-old Twirling Candy and unbeaten 3-year-old filly Turbulent Descent will be solidly favored to continue their respective climbs toward divisional supremacy on Saturday’s Strub Stakes Day at Santa Anita.

Jenny Craig’s Twirling Candy, the homebred son of Candy Ride whose overall brilliance has dimmed a single setback in six trips to the post, is expected to be the odds-on favorite among eight 4-year-olds in the 64th running of the historic Grade II, $200,000 Strub Stakes at 1 1/8 miles.

Turbulent Descent, a $160,000 sales purchase by Blinkers On Racing and partners whose flawless three-race career includes a handy triumph in the Grade I Hollywood Starlet, will be a solid choice among seven 3-year-old fillies set to contest the 29th running of the Grade I, $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile.

Dakota Phone, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs last November, will face eight rivals in yet another graded stakes race on the ten-race program, the Grade III, $100,000 Thunder Road Handicap at one mile on turf for older horses. First post is at 12:30 p.m.

Penny Chenery, who owned the legendary Secretariat, and who was prominently portrayed in the recent move “Secretariat,” will present Jerry and Ann Moss, the owners of Zenyatta, with the first Secretariat Vox Populi (Voice of the People) Award during a winner’s circle ceremony. Chenery and the Mosses will sign selected prints of “Racing Royalty: Secretariat and Zenyatta” in the East Paddock Gardens area for one hour beginning at 11:30 a.m.

After his fourth-place malfunction in Oak Tree’s Grade I Goodwood Stakes last Oct. 2, Twirling Candy righted himself with a sensational showing on Dec. 26, opening day at Santa Anita. He rallied at odds of 7-2 to nose out Smiling Tiger in the Grade I Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs.

Santa Anita’s new dirt track was playing unusually fast just after installation, but Twirling Candy’s record-breaking time of 1:19 3/5 in the Malibu didn’t particularly surprise his jockey. “When you’re on the best horse like Twirling Candy,” Joel Rosario commented, “it’s no surprise that he ran that fast.”

Rosario, who was not aboard Twirling Candy in the Goodwood, will be the riding companion on Saturday as the bay colt trained by John Sadler takes aim on a storied stakes race that not infrequently leads to the Santa Anita Handicap.

Such is the plan as Sadler tries to keep separate Craig’s two gifted sons of their superstar Candy Ride, who provided six straight wins climaxed by a track-record breaking performance in Del Mar’s $1 million Pacific Classic in 2003 for Jenny and her late husband, Sid.

Sidney’s Candy is ticketed to race in the Grade I, $300,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile on turf with Twirling Candy headed for the Big ’Cap on the same day, March 5. Four-year-olds, incidentally, have won more Santa Anita Handicaps that any other age group, 34, in its 63 runnings. The goal for Twirling Candy is to join the list of nine who have completed the Strub-Big ’Cap double including six since 1979 when Triple Crown winner Affirmed did so followed by the great Spectacular Bid in 1980.

Twirling Candy began his career with four successive victories by a total of 17 lengths including a 3 ¼ length score in last year’s Grade II Del Mar Derby despite attempting to bolt at the five-eighths pole. He was rank and a handful for jockey Mike Smith in the Goodwood while refusing to cooperate. After gaining the lead on the backside, Twirling Candy faded to fourth, 3 ½ lengths behind victorious Richard’s Kid.

“He just wasn’t himself that day,” said Sadler, “and he was kind of crampy after the race.” Breeders’ Cup plans were abandoned. “The time off was good for him,” said Sadler as Twirling Candy prepared for his return in the Malibu. He will bring earnings of $459,900 into the Strub.

Leading trainer Bob Baffert will provide the primary opposition for Twirling Candy on Saturday with Indian Firewater and Tweebster. Only a nose separated the two in the Grade II San Fernando Stakes on Jan. 15 as Indian Firewater led the entire journey at 1 1/16 miles.

Mike Smith will be back aboard Indian Firewater for partners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman. The son of Indian Charlie has compiled a record of 3-6-3 in 14 races while earning $257,120.

Tweebster, who will be rejoined by leading rider Rafael Bejarano, took eight races to break his maiden before embarking on a three-race winning streak that ended when he fell a jump short of catching his stablemate in the San Fernando. A roan son of Tapit purchased for $300,000 by Kaleem Shah, Tweebster has banked $151,760 from a 3-4-3 record in 11 starts.

The complete field for the Strub Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Honour the Deputy, Garrett Gomez, 118; Indian Firewater, Mike Smith, 123; Twirling Candy, Joel Rosario, 123; Tweebster, Rafael Bejarano, 118; Paris Vegas, Brice Blanc, 118; Make Music for Me, Chantal Sutherland, 118; Do It All, Patrick Valenzuela, 118, and Oilisblackgold, Victor Espinoza, 118.

If there is any hint of descent in the future of Turbulent Descent, it would not figure to develop on Saturday. The bay filly conditioned by Mike Puype has been training exceptionally well for her return after being freshened since her 1 ¼-length win over Big Tiz in the Starlet at Hollywood Park on Dec. 11.

“Great” was how regular rider David Flores described a five-furlong drill in 59 1/5 last Sunday at Hollywood Park. “We’re ready for Saturday,” said Flores. The filly had worked a sparkling seven furlongs in 1:23 2/5 the previous week at Hollywood Park.

A Florida-bred daughter of Congrats who was purchased in April of last year, Turbulent Descent won Hollywood Park’s $100,000 Moccasin Stakes following her maiden debut victory. Her spotless record in three starts has netted $328,350 for her owners.

Her opponents include Baffert’s May Day Rose, who won Santa Anita’s Grade III Santa Ysabel Stakes after finishing fourth, 3 ¼ lengths behind Turbulent Descent in the Starlet. Bejarano has the assignment aboard Shah’s Rockport Harbor filly, whose 3 wins in 5 starts have earned $184,555.

Trainer Doug O’Neill will send out the hard-trying California-bred daughter of Stormy Atlantic, California Nectar, who is coming off game wins at seven furlongs in the Grade II Santa Ynez and $100,000 California Breeders’ Championship at Santa Anita.

Owned and bred by Suarez Racing Inc., California Nectar will be facing Turbulent Descent for the first time. Patrick Valenzuela rides the earner of $213,800 in seven races that have produced three victories and as many seconds.

Zazu, owned by the Mosses and trained by Sadler, came within a neck of overhauling California Nectar in the Santa Ynez. The gray Tapit offspring has posted a 1-3-0 mark in 5 starts. Rosario rides.

The complete field for the Las Virgenes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Plum Pretty, Martin Garcia, 118; Bluegrass Chatter, Gomez, 118; Tiz the Route, Blanc, 118; California Nectar, Valenzuela, 118; May Day Rose, Bejarano, 119; Turbulent Descent, David Flores, 122, and Zazu, Rosario, 118.

Winless while chasing Aggie Engineer in two starts since springing his 37-1 upset in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, Dakota Phone will switch to grass in the Thunder Road. In his last start on turf in an allowance race at Hollywood Park on June 27, Dakota Phone rallied for second, one-half length behind victorious The Usual Q.T. Aggie Engineer finished third, 2 ¼ lengths behind Dakota Phone.

Rosario rides Dakota Phone for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. The 6-year-old bay gelding, owned by John Carver and partners, has earned $1,282,810 from a career record of 6-7-9 in 34 starts. He has raced on turf five times with a 1-1-1 showing.

Victor’s Cry, freshened since a 1 ¾-length victory in Hollywood Park’s Grade II Citation Handicap on Nov. 27, returns in the Thunder Road as the 122-pound high weight with Victor Espinoza back aboard. He will break from the extreme outside in the field of nine.

A 6-year-old ridgling trained by Eoin Harty for Equilete Stable, Victor’s Cry was a 21-1 winner of the Grade I Shoemaker Mile at Hollywood Park last May. His lifetime record of 6-3-2 in 21 starts for earnings of $564,021 includes a turf record of 5-2-1 in 13 races.

Fluke, who will be ridden by Joe Talamo, is coming off three seconds including a nose loss to Proviso in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Handicap at Santa Anita last March and a half-length defeat by Compari in the Grade II Arcadia Handicap the following month.

The Brazilian-bred Fluke, owned by Patricia Bozano, is trained by Humberto Ascanio, the former aid to Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel. Eleven days after Frankel’s death due to lymphoma on Nov. 16, 2009, Ascanio won the Citation with Fluke at odds of 9-1. The son of Wild Event has posted a 5-6-0 mark in 14 races while earning $397,948.

The complete field for the Thunder Road Handicap, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Blue Chagall, Gomez, 118, Fluke, Talamo, 120, Dakota Phone, Rosario, 120, Proudinsky, Valenzuela, 120, Meteore, Alsonso Quinonez, 116, Jazzman’s Dance, Kayla Stra, 108, Skyrush, Martin Pedroza, 116, Colgan’s Chip, Blanc, 116, and Victor’s Cry, Espinoza, 122.

The Strub will be run as the ninth race with the Thunder Road going as the eighth. The Las Virgenes will be contested earlier on the program as the fourth race.

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