Two Fresh Horses Riding the Candy Carousel

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Vekoma | Ryan Thompson

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The fact that he has only just broken into the six-figure club, at the age of 21, tells you how strong a curve Candy Ride (Arg) is taking into the evening of his career. His current sophomores, representing his 12th crop, were the first to be conceived at $60,000, up from $40,000 the previous year; while his yearlings were the first bred at $80,000, immediately following Gun Runner’s Horse of the Year campaign. With his status as a sire of sires ever strengthening, moreover, Candy Ride must be counted one of the most venerable Thoroughbreds alive today.

Quite an odyssey, since John Sikura took a fishing trip in Argentina and hooked the freak who came to California and took just 1:59.11 to thrash Medaglia d’Oro (El Prado {Ire}) in the GI Pacific Classic. (Sikura launched both horses at Hill ‘n’ Dale, don’t forget, albeit circumstances would cost him the due reward of supervising their pomp.) But while Candy Ride’s journey to this point is by now too familiar to be usefully reprised, it’s perhaps worth noting a couple of fresh straws in the wind.

Because as and when our community is reprieved from its current impasse, our gratitude for the window of opportunity kept open at Gulfstream last week may well be extended to two other performances preceding that of Tiz The Law (Constitution) in the GI Florida Derby. And both were authored by sons of Candy Ride.

One, Money Moves, may conceivably have acquired the look of a GI Kentucky Derby colt by September. The other, Vekoma, has already been one.

Obviously Money Moves still has a long way to go; equally obviously, he is one of those potentially favored by the skewing of the Classic calendar. Winner of a sprint maiden on debut over the same track six weeks previously, he stepped up to a mile in allowance company Friday and, having shared in a hot pace, dug in along the rail to win going away.

There’s quite an aura about the horse. That nobody should get ahead of themselves in this game, however, is a lesson transparent in his own antecedents. Back in 2011, Tom Mara of White Hall Lane Farm reckoned that a homebred Trippi colt, aptly named God Willing, might prove the best he had ever had. After a brilliant debut at Calder, the phone was hot. Tragically, however, all the dynamism and vitality of his young star unraveled with horrifying speed: he came out of his race with a couple of issues that deteriorated into a fatal colitis.

However irreplaceable the talent, Mara set out to fill the emotional void. That same summer, back at Calder, he picked out Citizen Advocate (Proud Citizen) as a possible claim after watching her swallowed up in a speed duel on debut. Sure enough, she won her next start by six lengths, only to be disqualified for bumping a rival early–and Mara was not only able to claim her for $40,000, but to win a maiden next time.

Thereafter, she reeled off three black-type wins, switching serenely between dirt and turf and synthetics; and the following year, moreover, she also managed second in the GIII Azalea S.

Retired to the paddocks after banking $327,450, Citizen Advocate’s first foal–a filly by Arch–topped the 2015 OBS August Yearling Sale at $320,000. That earned her an appointment at Lane’s End the following spring with Candy Ride. Mara, a longstanding client of Ciaran Dunne, sent the resulting colt to Wavertree to be prepped for last year’s OBS April 2-Year-Old Sale.

He worked in :10 flat, and with such dash that Steven W. Young–who said the colt “did everything but come off the ground”–was forced to $975,000 to land him. Afterwards, the agent permitted himself to observe that if he did everything right, the colt was entitled to end up in a stallion barn.

High stakes, then, for Money Moves and his owners Robert V. LaPenta and Bortolazzo Stable. Citizen Advocate is a half-sister to Come A Callin (Dixie Union), the dam of GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Caledonia Road (Quality Road); and their dam, an unraced Horse Chestnut (SAf) mare, is in turn a sibling to two stakes winners by Known Fact who each produced a Grade I scorer: namely Vespers , the dam of Donn H. winner Hymn Book (Arch); and Database, who produced the miler and sire Data Link (War Front). And the fifth dam is the celebrated Begum, born with no eyes but salvaged (at the heroic cost of a $50,000 stands-and-nurses Alydar cover) by Alice Chandler to raise half a dozen foals, including Binalong (another by Known Fact), who broke Keeneland’s seven-furlong track record.

Judging from the way he imposed himself late at Gulfstream, there seems little doubt that Money Moves will be able to stretch his speed–as did Candy Ride himself, and as have so many of his best stock: Gun Runner, Shared Belief, Mastery, etc. This capacity may very well be hewn from the bedrock of sturdy Argentinian blood in Candy Ride’s maternal family.

Just like Money Moves, Vekoma combines the Gone West branch of the Mr. Prospector line with the one that forks off the Fappiano interstate (through the byway of Cryptoclearance and Ride the Rails) to Candy Ride. Money Moves, as we’ve seen, is out of a mare by Proud Citizen; and Vekoma’s dam was by another son of Gone West, Speightstown.

She was Mona de Momma, winner of the 2010 GI Humana Distaff S. in the slop. On retirement, she was sold (with a Malibu Moon cover that evidently failed) at Fasig-Tipton November 2011 for $1.55 million to Jon Clay’s Alpha Delta Stables. But her own race record is only the tip of the iceberg, in terms of Vekoma’s eligibility to keep building on his seamless resumption Saturday at Gulfstream.

Making his first start since finishing 13th in the Kentucky Derby, Vekoma showed that his eccentric gait remains as effective as ever, outclassing his rivals for the seven-furlong Sir Shackleton S. by just under four lengths for his first triple-digit Beyer. Other than derailing at Churchill, Vekoma’s only defeat remains his third in the GII Fountain Of Youth S., a fine effort against Code of Honor (Noble Mission {GB}) and Bourbon War (Tapit) after a four-month layoff since his GIII Nashua S. success. (Code Of Honor, incidentally, had been delivered in the same Lane’s End foaling barn as Vekoma, just a day later.) With that comeback under his belt, Vekoma progressed to an emphatic success in the GII Blue Grass S. and, now that he is back up and running again, there’s no doubt that this May 22 foal is entitled to keep thriving with maturity.

Vekoma is the Jim Furyk of Thoroughbreds. The golfer’s swing was memorably compared by David Feherty to “an octopus falling from a tree”, and after his long absence it came as a fresh shock to see Vekoma making his unconventional way up the stretch on Saturday. There’s no denying his sheer horsepower, however; nor the fact that it is rooted in a pedigree to satisfy all orthodoxy.

True, his second dam is by a leftfield name in Hoist the Flag’s son Linkage–himself a Blue Grass S. winner, though soon banished from Claiborne and ending up in Canada–and made no show in just two starts. But in Long Legend (Reviewer), she shared a dam with not only Mr. Greeley (Gone West) but also the second dams of Street Sense (Street Cry {Ire}) and Paradise Woods (Union Rags).

Long Legend, in turn, was out of the dashing Lianga, who won elite European prizes both at sprint distances (July Cup, Prix de l’Abbaye etc) and a mile (Prix Jacques le Marois). In doing so, Lianga deepened the unexpected footprint of Dancer’s Image as a fount of turf speed in Europe: he also sired the preceding July Cup winner, Saritamer, and the early Coolmore stallion Godswalk. Lianga, for her part, won additional distinction as third dam of one of Coolmore’s most remarkable sires, Danehill Dancer (Ire), who elevated his fee from 3,500 Irish guineas to €115,000 in becoming a vital conduit of the Danzig revolution in Europe.

As such, it was quite a page Randy Hill (and his friend Mike Gatsas) secured for $135,000 at Keeneland September in 2017, presumably on account of that late foaling date. (Though those who persist in that prejudice, which has long been exposed, should remember that the other three May foals who started in the Kentucky Derby last year were also the first three past the post.)

Unfortunately, Mona de Momma died that same year. But if his breeder deserved a better dividend from Vekoma’s sale, at least he had retained the first of Mona de Momma’s three foals, Bloody Point (War Front), talented enough to win three of six starts and now to keep the family going.

And if Vekoma’s dam was lost prematurely, his sire just adds to his reputation with each year that passes. In 2021, he will be joined at Lane’s End by another son, alongside Twirling Candy and Unified, in Game Winner. Gun Runner and Mastery will soon be selling their first yearlings. And who can say what Candy Ride’s next crop of juveniles will achieve, given the perennial upgrading of his mares? One thing can be guaranteed: whatever promise they show, as and when the program permits, they will keep consolidating; and many of them, however fast, will keep going once they get to a second turn.

Whether that will be Vekoma’s very best game remains to be seen. But both he and Money Moves–each in the hands of an esteemed former D. Wayne Lukas assistant–share an auspicious air of unfinished business. Right now, of course, that’s something the whole industry can identify with. Already, however, they both look worth the wait.

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