Week of February 7, 2011
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

Giant Oak & Twirling Candy wasted no time stepping up to fill the void left in the handicap division by Blame and Zenyatta, as both colts notched their second consecutive graded wins. After breaking Spectacular Bid’s record in the Malibu Stakes (replay), albeit over an exceedingly fast track, Twirling Candy came back to win the Grade 2 Strub Stakes with relative ease and is already being hailed as the best horse in training in some circles. The next stop for this son of Candy Ride will be the Santa Anita Handicap on March 5.

Giant Oak proved that his effort in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap (replay), finishing a neck behind the disqualified Successful Dan was no fluke when he thundered by the favorites in deep stretch to finish first in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. His connections are considering the Dubai World Cup next month as his next stop. Given that he’s an Omnisurface Star, he certainly could handle the switch from dirt to synthetics.

Twirling Candy wasn’t the only high profile win from the John Sadler barn this weekend as both Gladding and Zazu scored wins for Sadler. Gladding won the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes while Zazu finally put all the pieces together in the the Grade 1 Las Virgenes and held of the late charge of the previously undefeated Turbulent Descent. Subscribers of our Derby Prep Alert were tipped off about the potential big effort from Zazu. Her next stop on the Kentucky Oaks trail is the the Santa Anita Oaks on March 5. Gladding may join stablemate Twirling Candy in the March 5 Santa Anita Handicap.

Other notable performances this weekend included the return of another talented son of Candy Ride, Capt. Candyman Can in the Super Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs (replay). No word on a specific next race for the Candyman but the Carter Handicap is on the radar with the goal of the Breeders’ Cup. Cherokee Queen stepped up her game to win the Suwanee River at Gulfstream Park while longshot Teak’s North paid $52.60 in the Gulfstream Park Handicap. And trainer Humberto Ascanio, former assistant trainer for the late Bobby Frankel, finally ended his losing streak with Fluke in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

And finally, Cal Nation made an eye catching debut at Gulfstream Park (replay) for the Todd Pletcher barn. It looks like Pletcher will take a conservative route with him and skip the Derby trail (via Railbird) but several other Pletcher Derby hopefuls worked this weekend including Uncle Mo, Brethren and Stay Thirsty.

Keep up with all the news and commentary about the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks at Raceday 360 Wire!

Last Week’s Races

Cal Nation Maiden Race Replay
Todd Pletcher adds another interesting 3-year-old to his roster as Cal Nation makes an impressive debut.

2011 Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap Replay
Teak’s North ($52.60) closed furiously on the outside while Smart Bid snuck through on the rail ($9) to complete an exacta that paid $423.60!

2011 Suwanee River Stakes Replay

Cherokee Queen sat a perfect trip right off the pace.

2011 Donn Handicap Replay

Giant Oak closed like a freight train to step for his second consecutive Grade 1 win.

2011 Las Virgenes Stakes Replay

Up and comer Zazu finally put all the pieces together, impressively repelling the late charge of well regarded and previously undefeated Turbulent Descent.

2011 Strub Stakes Replay

Twirling Candy twirled right on by the field with relative ease.

2011 Hallandale Beach Stakes Replay

King Congie held off a blanket of horses to finish first but was disqualified to third with the win going to Master Dunker.

2011 San Antonio Stakes Replay

Gladding controls the pace and wires the field after repelling the bid of Spurrier.

Upcoming Graded Stakes Races

Check probable starters at Horse Racing Nation’s Stakes Tracker

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