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?