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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


HALLANDALE BEACH, FL. February 7, 2021 — There were several questions concerning Chad Brown trainee Risk Taking and Bill Mott’s Candy Man Rocket going into Saturday’s Grade 3 Withers and Sam F Davis, respectively, which basically came down to this:

Were they fast enough, talented enough, and stout enough to handle the rise into graded stakes company off maiden victories? To wit:

Did the blinkers move Risk Taking up, or was it the added distance that launched him forward? The answer to both turns out to be all the above. And the chances are excellent that his development will continue.

“He’s always been one we thought highly of even when Barry Eisaman had him in Ocala,” trainer Chad Brown explained post-race. “Everyone that’s touched the horse has commented about how classy he was, the ability that he has, and how he will get better with time and distance.”

Showing maturity beyond his experience, Risk Taking handled the trip, the traffic, and the class rise, doing so with aplomb. In the final furlong and in high gear beneath Eric Cancel, Risk Taking lowered his body, lengthened his stride and galloped out strongly past the post.

Brown gave the young rider much of the credit: “I couldn’t be prouder of him for the trip he gave this horse… He used him a little for position early, staying out of trouble off the fence and showing some patience… Eric hasn’t ridden many for us, but he’s made them count.”

Jerome winner Capo Kane faced mild pressure in his first run going nine furlongs but didn’t stay the distance, which is not to say he won’t given a two-sided classic pedigree, maybe just not at this level or at distances beyond a mile and an eighth.

The horse that nailed Capo Kane late for the place will be looking for more ground, too. Overtook stormed home in deep stretch, albeit too late, and looked like he will justify his million-dollar price tag with continued development.

“I know he wants to be at the back,” Manny Franco told NYRA’s press staff afterward.  “He’s improving race by race so he’s got a nice future… I think that more distance will be better for him.”

Whether he can overtake Risk Taking, who also rates to handle added ground, is another matter entirely.

Horseplayers, Pay Attention

When trainers, especially Hall of Famers, do something out of character, horseplayers would do well to take note.

It’s not that Bill Mott hasn’t spotted horses aggressively before, but to go from maiden sprint to a graded two-turn stakes, particularly over a different, deeper surface, is a big ask. As it turned out, the Candy Man could.

The maiden romp by Candy Man Rocket gave Mott the confidence he needed to take a risk. A stalk and crush performance that yielded a 9-1/4 length win in fast time was good, of course, but also unusual because he subtly demonstrated that there was another gear to come.

Candy Man Rocket is a paddler with unusual leg action, think Vekoma,. Parenthetically, however, we’ve never seen a paddler that wasn’t also a stone runner. The colt’s multiple gears were on display in Tampa’s Sam F. Davis.

Junior Alvarado used Candy Man Rocket’s first gear to gain an attending position—no easy feat in a seasoned field while making a two-turn debut, and at headstretch showed a second gear to take command. He was tiring at the end, then he had every right to.

“Obviously, he has some tactical speed and put Junior in a great spot,” said Mott’s son, assistant trainer Riley Mott. “He got into a real nice comfort zone down the backside and Junior let him out a notch going to the three-eighths …

“He hit the front a little bit early and he’s still inexperienced. Sometimes when they get to the front too early, they tend to wander. Junior kept him to the task, he ran on well, and passed the two-turn test.” As did the runnerup, stablemate Nova Rags.

What happens next and whether either or both return for the Tampa Bay Derby in four weeks depends on how the horses come out of their races.

“Nova Rags has had two races in three weeks,” Mott explained… “To bring him back in four weeks–we will just have to look at the calendar and see what the options are. As far as Candy Man Rocket, he went over the track today but we have to see how he comes back.”

Whenever and wherever he lands, a healthy Candy Rocket Man will make his presence known. His Davis performance clearly showed he has the ability to handle two turns and added distance. Better company, of course, is another matter.

From the Forestry mare Kenny Lane, it’s fair to question whether a mile and a quarter in May is beyond Candy Rocket Man’s scope. That would require another leap of faith from Mott. But isn’t that what the prep season is all about?

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4 Responses

  1. More impressed by Risk Taking as a Derby Radar prospect. Such a great time of year when get a peek at everyone’s cards.

    Reposting an earlier comment that I posted on the FRA page.regarding the danger of this being a high spreader event day. Snowing in NY and Aqueduct closed due to the Jethro Tull Storm Watch. Guess it may be a good thing if results in less people able to congregate for the game. Keep your guard up is all I wish to convey. Covid itself is not political and non-discriminatory on whomever it captures.

    McD says:
    February 7, 2021 at 12:15 pm
    I like the FRA call today John. Just watched the linked replay and my trip comment reads “wide, wider, widest”. Core Values gained experience and is on dirt today +++. The FRA sure beats wagering on a coin toss. And don’t be insulted Stage Door. You gave out more than enough selections yesterday without my inquiring who you might like in leg one on an x/c ticket. But only for the fun of it, how about a friendly five spot wager on SB this evening? Bragging rights bet really. I kicked Bishop Loughlin’ butt in the big game stuff is all. You pick first. No points involved. PSA for all the HRI faithful, Big Spreader Day today. Stay Safe and Mask Up. Think “Safe at Second”. Only about your life and protecting your families.

  2. By the way, McD, make a $1 exacta box if you haven’t already. You, and anyone who’s interested, can watch the replay for themselves but if entering and have the time, take a look at Mollify. He showed nothing in his debut, neither did his rider. I bet both straight, pressing Core Values, of course.
    Oh, and I agree, Risk Taking was the more impressive of the two but, if he were alive, Ray Charles could have told you that much–guess it’s my day for political incorrectness.
    One more thing, a sad note. Got a call this morning that Marshall Cassidy passed in his sleep. Don’t know details but the source is reliable. We’ll have more on Marshall in Tuesday column. RIP Marshall…

  3. Just heard that Marshall Cassidy has passed. I remember once during a teller’s strike at Big A going to the windows to collect. I handed the person cashing the ticket and then heard a familiar voice say, “congratulations” as he handed me the cash. I knew the voice and looked to see Marshall Cassidy doing double duty as a teller.

    1. I remember this story as you’ve shared it before, but for those who hadn’t seen it that you posted again here. I’ll share my Marshall story on Tuesday. Thanks C…

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