By Sid Fernando
Candy Ride (Arg), by Ride the Rails from Candy Girl (Arg), by Candy Stripes, came from Argentina, where he was a champion miler, and quickly established himself as both a high-class racehorse with a win in the Gl Pacific Classic and as a sire here in a similar way that Forli (Arg) and Lord At War (Arg) did before him. Make no mistake, it was quite a feat, because South American-bred racehorses, no matter how successful they are on the track in North America, most often whiff at stud in their adopted lands. Offbeat pedigrees, like Candy Ride's, play a part in that. And in Candy Ride's case, starting off at Hill 'n' Dale at a modest fee of $10,000 didn't particularly suggest he'd rise to the elite ranks where he now stands for $75,000. Gentlemen (Arg) and Siphon (Brz), both outstanding Grade l winners in North America, are two well-known examples of failure that commanded more in their first years at stud than Candy Ride did. Moreover, as successful as Forli and Lord At War were as stallions, they fizzled in establishing thriving male lines, though Forli did get several productive stallion sons.
It's now Candy Ride's turn at bat as a sire of sires, and Kentucky stud farms appear to be betting that he'll succeed, judging by the number of sons he has at high-profile establishments. Lane's End, where Candy Ride now holds court, is particularly vested in his sons–and a grandson–and that's probably because the farm stands Twirling Candy, Candy Ride's most successful stallion to date.
A Grade l winner from Candy Ride's second crop, Twirling Candy was as versatile as his sire, who was an undefeated Group 1/Grade 1 winner of six starts in Argentina and North America on turf and dirt from a mile to a mile and a quarter. Out of a Chester House (by Mr. Prospector) mare, Twirling Candy won seven of 11 starts, including the Gl Malibu S., a race in which he established a new course record of 1:19.70 for seven furlongs on dirt at Santa Anita. Twirling Candy also won the Gll Del Mar Derby on turf at nine furlongs and he stayed the 10 furlongs of the Gl Hollywood Gold Cup and Pacific Classic on all-weather, finishing third in the former by a nose and a neck, and second in the latter by a head.
At stud, Twirling Candy is represented by seven crops, including current 2-year-olds, and though he's been a success from the start, his stature has particularly broadened over the last several seasons and it's at an all-time high with sons Rombauer, winner of the Gl Preakness S. three weeks ago and a major contender in the Gl Belmont S. on Saturday, and Dream Shake, a lightly raced Gl-placed 3-year-old who goes in the Gl Woody Stephens S. on the Belmont undercard, leading the way. True to form, Twirling Candy, like Candy Ride, gets winners across the age, distance, and surface spectrums.
Altogether, Twirling Candy is represented by 27 black-type winners, including River Dog, a promising New York-bred sophomore who won a restricted stakes race in his second start earlier this week at Belmont, and the stallion has so far sired five top-level winners, including Finley'sluckycharm, Gift Box, Concrete Rose, and Collusion Illusion in addition to Rombauer. He stands this year for $40,000, well up from his introductory fee of $15,000 in 2012, and because of his popularity, he's not an easy horse to get to.
Perhaps for this reason, Lane's End recruited Twirling Candy's first-crop son Gift Box to stand his first season this year for $10,000. Initially trained by Chad Brown, Gift Box later ended up with John Sadler, who'd also trained his sire, and for Sadler Gift Box won the Gl Santa Anita H. among other graded races. Grade 2 winner Danzing Candy, another first-crop son of Twirling Candy, stands at Rancho San Miguel in California for $5,000 and already has a 2-year-old winner from his first crop this year, and any success he has down the road will only burnish impressions for Gift Box.
Lane's End also stands Candy Ride's champion 2-year-old colt Game Winner, who was undefeated at two when he won three Grade l races, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and Unified, a Grade 2 winner who was also placed in the Gl Carter H. The former is standing his first season for $30,000 while the latter, who stands for $10,000, is represented by his first juveniles and already has a promising debut winner in the filly Behave Virginia, who won a Churchill maiden special by 5 1/2 lengths a week ago. Unified has been a popular sales horse, too, which is another clue that his offspring are well regarded, and this spring he had colts sell for $530,000 and $400,000 at OBS March, and last year he had a yearling bring $450,000 at Keeneland September, though that colt has unfortunately died while in training.
The most distinguished son of Candy Ride at stud is of course Horse of the Year Gun Runner, who won six Grade l races and earned almost $16 million in a stellar career. Gun Runner went to Three Chimneys in 2018 for $70,000–second only to Arrogate's $75,000 fee among newcomers that year–and is now available for $50,000 in his fourth year as his 2-year-olds hit the track. And so far, he has two winners, Pappacap and Red Run, from four starters and sits atop a fledgling first-crop sire list with progeny earnings of $136,988. Gun Runner himself won twice at two but didn't become a black-type winner until he was three, and it wasn't until he was four that he became Horse of the Year while winning five of six starts, including the Gl Breeders' Cup Classic. He followed that up at five with a win in the Gl Pegasus World Cup Invitational before entering stud, all of which is to say that any early success with his juveniles is gravy because his best runners figure to be better at three and up.
A Gun Runner 2-year-old made $1.7 million at Fasig-Tipton's Gulfstream sale while another brought $850,000 at OBS April, all good signs for a horse who will be heavily scrutinized this year.
Claiborne, which stood Forli, has Candy Ride's lightly raced but undefeated Grade l winner Mastery, who stands for $25,000 and also has juveniles making their way to the track now. To date, he's had only four starters, but he is one that is expected to strike with his 2-year-olds because he was a fast horse whose top-level win came at two, albeit late in the season at Los Alamitos in the Cash Call Futurity.
Spendthrift got into the Candy Ride act when it secured Vekoma, a brilliant racehorse who was as equally noted for an unusual gait at high speed. A graded winner at two, three, and four, and altogether a winner of six of eight starts, Vekoma blossomed in his last year of racing as a fast sprinter/miler, winning both the Gl Metropolitan and Carter Handicaps, and he is standing his first season for $20,000.
Spendthrift doubled down on Candy Ride sons two months ago when it secured the breeding rights to the inexperienced but highly promising Rock Your World, the Gl Santa Anita Derby winner who made only his fourth start in the Gl Kentucky Derby after entering the race undefeated. He lost all chance in the Classic after experiencing trouble out of the gate, but he's back in the Belmont S. to take on Rombauer and the others, and he figures to be the main speed threat to take them all the way.
Rock Your World is an interesting colt, because he began his career unusually, with two races on the turf before winning at the highest level on dirt, but there are similarities with him and Twirling Candy. For one, both are colts with size and scope; and both had/have John Sadler calling the shots. Sadler brought Twirling Candy up through the ranks with his first two wins on all-weather, then won two black-type races on turf before trying him on dirt successfully in the Malibu.
And if that wasn't enough, there's some similarity on pedigree, too. Twirling Candy, as noted earlier, is from a mare by Chester House, and Rock Your World is from a mare by Empire Maker–Chester House's half-brother, also from the Mr. Prospector line.
That proximity to Twirling Candy certainly makes Rock Your World an attractive and promising stud prospect, along with the others.
Candy Ride is 22 and is the sire of 97 black-type winners to date. He's had several sons bust at stud already, including Grade l winners Sidney's Candy and Misremembered, but stud farms have continued to invest in his sons because the stallion continues to roll out high-quality horses. And if some of these young stallions and stallion prospects make it like Twirling Candy has, they will contribute to the propagation of an unusual tail-male line of descent to Fappiano through Ride the Rails/Cryptoclearance–which has now become a singularly American line through Candy Ride and one that's not available anywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere.
Sid Fernando is president and CEO of Werk Thoroughbred Consultants, Inc., originator of the Werk Nick Rating and eNicks.