April 16, 2024

Valentine Candy escapes traffic in Renaissance; Ice Cold up in time in Year’s End

Valentine Candy dominated his second straight Oaklawn Park stakes in the Renaissance (Photo by Coady Photography)

Juveniles were in the spotlight on Sunday’s New Year’s Eve program at Oaklawn Park. Valentine Candy crowned a four-win day for Steve Asmussen in the $150,000 Renaissance S., and Ice Cold toppled odds-on favorite Denim and Pearls in the $200,000 Year’s End S. for fillies.

Ice Cold was herself the second half of an Oaklawn double for champion freshman sire-elect Mitole, who also sent out Asmussen’s impressive allowance winner Carbone. Mitole, the champion sprinter of 2019, is now a red-hot stallion with progeny excelling around two turns. It helps that Carbone and Ice Cold are out of mares by 2007 Kentucky Derby (G1) champ Street Sense, although Mitole himself has a more varied heritage as an Eskendereya half-brother to Hot Rod Charlie.

Renaissance S.

Wheeling back from his 6 3/4-length romp in the Dec. 8 Advent S. on opening day, Valentine Candy racked up another stakes score in the Renaissance. But the 7-10 favorite had to overcome a trickier passage.

Unlike the Advent, where he enjoyed clear sailing in a pace-forcing role on the outside, Valentine Candy found himself strung up in New Year’s Eve traffic from post 2 here. Jockey Joel Rosario settled the Justify colt just off the pace as a trio of rivals – Normandy Hero, General Shipman, and Frost Free – dashed ahead. That conserved his energy through hot fractions of :22.04 and :45.81, a pace that burned up early leader Normandy Hero turning for home.

Yet Valentine Candy had an anxious moment in tight quarters. Racing too eagerly in the pocket, he had to steady off Normandy Hero’s heels at one point before angling out for room at the top of the stretch. Once Valentine Candy saw daylight, the race was over. The favorite rolled by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:11.29 for six furlongs.

Closers Tejon Pass and Googol Joke got up for second and third, respectively. There was a five-length gap back to General Shipman, who edged Frost Free, with Normandy Hero cantering home a long-way last. The winner’s stablemate, Booth, was scratched.

Valentine Candy’s scorecard stands at 6-3-1-1, $263,925. A sharp debut winner at Saratoga July 22, the blaze-faced chestnut threw in his only poor result when ninth in the Hopeful (G1). He regrouped with a pair of placings at Keeneland, finishing second to Normandy Hero in an Oct. 7 allowance and third in the Oct. 28 Bowman Mill S. The change of venue to Hot Springs has conjured up improvement.

Bred by Pine Creek in the Bluegrass State and sold for $250,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling, Valentine Candy is out of the Grade 1-placed Candy Ride mare Taste Like Candy.

Carbone highlights Team Asmussen on undercard

Valentine Candy races for a partnership headed by Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt, who also savored a big win by their homebred Carbone in a one-mile allowance. His victory was all the more special because the same connections campaigned his sire Mitole as well as Carbone’s female line.

Distance was the question mark for Carbone. Not only did he display blistering speed in his eight-length debut Nov. 19 at Churchill Downs, garnering “Rising Star” status from Thoroughbred Daily News, but that aptitude was arguably reinforced by his dam. Carbone was produced by the Street Sense mare Treasure in Heaven, a daughter of the Heiligbrodts’ Grade 3-winning sprinter Richwoman. Even Carbone’s third dam, Texas-bred Richbabe, had captured a pair of sprint stakes for the Heiligbrodts and Asmussen.

But Carbone successfully carried his speed around a route of ground here to go 2-for-2. Setting measured fractions of :23.40, :47.76, and 1:13.04 with Ricardo Santana Jr., the 7-10 favorite kicked four lengths clear and crossed the wire in 1:38.63.

Asmussen celebrated two other wins with promising juveniles Imperial Gun and Pun Intended, like Carbone offspring of his past stable stars.

Imperial Gun, by Asmussen’s 2017 Horse of the Year and top sire Gun Runner, crushed a 1 1/16-mile maiden in his second start. Under Rosario, the $375,000 Keeneland January yearling purchase drew off by 5 3/4 lengths while clocking 1:45.96. Imperial Gun was produced by Take a Memo, a daughter of Empire Maker and Grade 2 victress Memorette.

Rosario likewise steered 17-10 favorite Pun Intended to a five-length maiden conquest. By Hall of Famer Curlin, the Spendthrift Farm homebred sped to the front early and opened up down the lane to finish 1 1/16 miles in 1:46.52. Pun Intended, who was runner-up to West Omaha in her Churchill unveiling, is out of the Grade 1-placed stakes scorer Kelly’s Humor, by Midnight Lute.

Year’s End S.

Ken McPeek won last year’s inaugural edition with Defining Purpose, and Ice Cold maintained her trainer’s perfect record in the one-mile stakes that opens the track’s series toward the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Just as Defining Purpose went on to glory in the Ashland (G1), Ice Cold hopes to follow precedent by using the Year’s End as a launching pad to a successful sophomore campaign.

Dispatched as the 3.40-1 second choice at Oaklawn, Ice Cold had to find a way to turn the tables on 4-5 favorite Denim and Pearls. The two had met on the “Stars of Tomorrow II” program at Churchill Nov. 25, where Denim and Pearls won handily by 3 1/2 lengths. But Ice Cold was a closing second in that cutback to a one-turn mile, and stretching back out to two turns – the configuration of her maiden-breaking rout in the restricted Miss Indiana S. – ultimately made the difference here.

For much of the race, though, Denim and Pearls was in the catbird’s seat stalking Asternia and Neom Beach through splits of :23.18 and :47.20. The favorite loomed ominously passing six furlongs in 1:12.18 and turned for home in control, and full of run.

Meanwhile, Ice Cold, who had been patiently handled by Julien Leparoux, was ranging into contention. The further they went, the stronger Ice Cold grew, until she swept past Denim and Pearls by three-quarters of a length in 1:38.97.

Neom Beach churned on another four lengths adrift in third. Asternia, Tapit Jenallie, Floating Beauty, and Pula rounded out the order under the wire.

Daniel McGreevy’s Ice Cold has compiled a mark of 5-2-1-0, $190,129. Her dam, the Street Sense mare Ice Women, is also responsible for multiple stakes-winning Indiana-bred Corningstone.