Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Twirling Candy and a Giant filly named Zazu

Posted by Brian Appleton on February 6, 2011

It was Turbulent Descent who entered the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr.1) as the heavy favorite, but it was Zazu who emerged as the rising star. The gray/roan Tapit filly took her game to a whole new level on Saturday, fighting off a strong rally from Turbulent Descent at the top of the stretch to register a 1 ¼ length win.

The field of six fillies broke like a shot at the break and California Nectar and May Day Rose immediately engaged in a fiery speed duel up front as Turbulent Descent and Zazu dropped back to the rear of the field.  Down the backstretch the two frontrunners blazed along more than four lengths clear of the field setting torrid fractions of :21.58 for the opening quarter and :44.25 for the half mile. Zazu began to move up along the rail as the field approached the final turn while up front California Nectar began to drop back fast, the rapid fractions taking their toll.

Into the turn Zazu flew up along the inside from last to snag second position behind May Day Rose. Turbulent Descent also made her move, going around horses to the outside just off the flank of Zazu. Into the stretch Zazu and Turbulent Descent inhaled May Day Rose and swept to the lead, noses apart. It appeared at first that the favorite was on her way to her fourth consecutive win. Zazu on the inside though would have none of it, fighting back with rigorous urging from jockey Joel Rosario, to gain the lead by a neck, finally surging ahead in the final few strides to win by just over a length. Turbulent Descent was tough in defeat and should improve off this hard fought effort.

Zazu entered the Las Virgenes Stakes off a fast-closing second place finish in the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr.2) behind California Nectar by a mere neck. She has only finished worse than second once in her career and seems to be improving with each race in 2011.

Giant Oak - Coglianese Photos

Giant Oak produced a huge run to capture the 2011 Donn Handicap (gr.1) by a widening two lengths on Saturday, capturing his second consecutive Grade 1 race after winning the Clark Handicap in November.

In a field that included 7 other graded stakes winners Giant Oak rated well off the pace set by Square Eddie with Morning Line, I Want Revenge and Rule all tightly bunched up close. Down the backstretch the field remained in pretty much the same positions with Square Eddie and Morning Line leading the pack. Entering the far turn Morning Line seized the lead with I Want Revenge and Rule moving in tandem to his outside as Square Eddie quickly fell back.

Off the turn it was Morning Line to the inside with a narrow advantage over I Want Revenge and Rule on the outside but from far back in the pack Giant Oak was uncoiling with a huge run into the stretch.

Down the center of the track Giant Oak bounded, eating away at the frontrunners lead stride by stride, finally sweeping past with a renewed rush to win the Donn in an absolute rout.

Morning Line held on for second by a nose over Rule on the outside with I Want Revenge another nose back in fourth.

The five-year-old Giant Oak is now in a perfect position to take control of the older horse division on the East Coast.

Twirling Candy - Benoitphoto.com

Twirling Candy is the real deal. After winning the Grade 2 Strub Stakes on Saturday by four lengths under a tight rein by jockey Joel Rosario, Twirling Candy’s record setting Malibu Stakes win (gr.1) on December 26th is looking better and better.

It was virtually a one horse show all the way around the dirt oval in the Strub Stakes. Twirling Candy sat just off the flank of pacesetting Indian Firewater around the first turn and into the backstretch. Midway down the backstretch Twirling Candy, under a stranglehold, began to inch up to Indian Firewater, gaining the lead before the field was halfway around the far turn. From there it was just a formality as to who would win.

Off the turn Twirling Candy swept down the homestretch, powerful strides propelling him two lengths into the lead. Pounding past the wire with ears pricked, still under a tight hold by Rosario, Twirling Candy finished the race in the sparkling time of 1:46.53 for the 1 1/8 mile distance, just 3 ticks off the track record.

His final margin of victory was four lengths but it could just have easily been a dozen or more. In my humble opinion this was the most impressive performance of the year so far. Twirling Candy did it all on his own, never being asked at any point in the race to run anything close to his best effort. After breaking Spectacular Bid’s 7 furlong track record in the Malibu over the lightning fast Santa Anita surface people speculated that the time was not justified because the new dirt track was playing too fast. Now with two impressive back-to-back graded stakes scores to his credit it appears as though Twirling Candy is on his way to justifying his reputation. Anyone planning to face this monster in the Santa Anita Handicap next month might want to think twice.

Twirling Candy has an iron fisted grip on the older horse division in the West Coast now that will take one very tough contender to break. Aggie Engineer could prove to be his biggest challenger if he wins or runs well in Sunday’s San Antonio Stakes and proceeds on to the ‘Big Cap’. The 6-year-old Aggie Engineer rides a three race win streak coming into the San Antonio, his last win came in the form of a 3 ¼ length victory in the San Pasqual Stakes (gr.2).

Don’t forget that Tuesday marks the first day of my Kentucky Oaks Runner blog on Horse Racing Nation and I’ll be looking for lots of feedback as well as support! Here is the link to the new blog so you can add it to your favorites/bookmark: http://www.horseracingnation.com/blogs/KyOaksRunner/

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