In an earlier post for the Top-10 Moments of the 2016 Triple Crown, I noted that one of the best things we witnessed was the rivalries that emerged on the derby trail. Out west, the battle seemed to be between Mor Spirit and Exaggerator. Way back in March, those two were upset by a speed demon that literally came out of nowhere. That horse was none other than Danzing Candy.
Trained by Clifford Sise and owned by Jim Bashor, Danzing Candy was very late to the contender’s party for the Triple Crown prep races. He actually wasn’t even on the radar. Then, all of a sudden, he started posting these ridiculous maiden times at Santa Anita. Danzing Candy would run a mile in 1:36.73 and chatter quickly spread amongst horse players out west. Could he be a threat?
TOP-10 MOMENTS OF 2016 TRIPLE CROWN
#10 – Rivalries born on derby trail
#9 – Lani captures the hearts of America
#8 – Creator shocks the Belmont Stakes
#7 – Danzing Candy bursts on to the scene
The thought was mostly laughable. The main challengers for the Kentucky Derby were essentially established. Nyquist and Moyahmen were the front runners, Mor Spirit and Exaggerator were next in line and after that came Mo Tom and Gun Runner in the mid-west. There just seemed like there was no room for a late shooter.
Then came the San Felipe Stakes, a race that heavily preferred both Mor Spirit and Exaggerator (who had not yet come on as a serious threat). Danzing Candy posted as a 5/1 outside shot and I urged people to back him on a whim. Speed in these types of races can be an absolute killer, and the son of Twirling Candy did not disappoint. Check it out:
Danzing Candy led from wire-to-wire and dominated the six-horse field to completely dust both Mor Spirit and Exaggerator. He took Exaggerator’s best shot and didn’t even flinch. It was awesome. There was a new sheriff in the wild, wild west.
Front running isn’t a style that most horse players like to see, but there are those like myself that appreciate the guts it takes to just put your best foot (or hoof) forward and pull the best out of your competition. Danzing Candy doesn’t know any other way to run. Unfortunately, he would get sapped by the muddy track at the Santa Anita Derby which served to solidify Exaggerator’s worth in the Triple Crown.
Heading in to the Kentucky Derby, few gave Danzing Candy a chance. Exaggerator was the second choice after his staggering Santa Anita Derby run, while Nyquist held firm as the favorite. But when the gates cracked open, there was Danzing Candy leading the field from the outside post and dragging the field through incredibly brisk fractions. The first half-mile of the Kentucky Derby was run in :45.73 thanks to his courageous front running.
Danzing Candy would be passed around the turn by both Nyquist and Gun Runner and would doddle down the stretch completely spent. Mike Smith didn’t even try to crack his whip as he knew his horse had given him everything he had already. The jockey and his connections knew that Danzing Candy only had one gear, and he showed it in fine form at the Kentucky Derby.
This is the type of stuff that people will forget in the history of things. Had the Santa Anita Derby been dry, there’s a good chance that Danzing Candy would’ve upset Exaggerator a second time and perhaps dented the eventual Preakness Stakes winner’s confidence. You just never know in horse racing.
All I’m positive of when it comes to Danzing Candy is that he gave it everything he had, and for that we thank you.