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Mar 20, 2009

Thru the Binoculars

Chocolate Candy works for Santa Anita Derby

Joel Rosario, Santa Anita's third-leading rider with 59 victories through Wednesday, will ride El Camino Real Derby (G3) winner CHOCOLATE CANDY (Candy Ride [Arg]) in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 4, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer announced Thursday morning.

Rosario rode Chocolate Candy to his maiden victory at Santa Anita last October 4, but perennial Bay Area champion Russell Baze has ridden the bay colt in his last two starts, victories in the California Derby and the El Camino Real Derby.

"My connections prefer to use riders who are familiar with the course," Hollendorfer explained. "That's why we use Russell up here and will use Rosario in the Santa Anita Derby."

Chocolate Candy, owned by the Sid and Jenny Craig Trust, worked one mile on Golden Gate's Tapeta surface Thursday in 1:41 1/5.

"The work was very nice, although the track was kind of dead up here this morning," Hollendorfer said. "He was very steady all the way around."

In other Santa Anita Derby news, San Felipe S. (G2) winner PIONEEROF THE NILE (Empire Maker) jogged on Santa Anita's Pro-Ride Thursday morning.

"He looked great," trainer Bob Baffert said of the Grade 1-winning colt.

Mike McCarthy, assistant to Todd Pletcher, said Sham S. (G3) runner-up TAKE THE POINTS (Even the Score) will run in either the Santa Anita Derby or the $750,000 Blue Grass S. (G1) at Keeneland on April 11.

Corey Nakatani rides Sham third-placer MR. HOT STUFF (Tiznow) for Eoin Harty, while regular rider Alex Solis has the mount on Sham winner THE PAMPLEMOUSSE (Kafwain) for trainer Julio Canani.

Thursday morning, Canani said "everything is under control" when asked how The Pamplemousse came out of Wednesday's five furlong work in :59 4/5.

McPeek nominates two for Epsom Oaks

Two Ken McPeek fillies -- Alcibiades S. (G1) winner DREAM EMPRESS (Bernstein) and the stakes-placed STRIKING DANCER (Smart Strike) -- are on the 77-strong list of nominees unveiled Thursday for the Epsom Oaks (Eng-G1). The about 1 1/2-mile classic will be contested on June 5.

"The plan is to run her (Dream Empress) in the Ashland S. ([G1] on April 4) on Polytrack at Keeneland and then send her over to Britain," McPeek commented. "The Oaks has been the plan for a long time now. We don't feel that she acts on dirt, so we were keen to run her on Polytrack and turf. The mile-and-a-half trip should be right up her alley, because she's out of a Nijinsky mare.

"I have been to Epsom and it's certainly an idiosyncratic track, but we've also got quite an idiosyncratic set-up here and it's very much a European approach to training horses.

Dream Empress was runner-up to Stardom Bound in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), but she was a disappointing seventh in her seasonal reappearance in Sunday's grassy Herecomesthebride S. (G3) at Gulfstream.

Striking Dancer, who was second in the Caressing H. last fall at Churchill Downs, opened 2009 with an allowance score on the turf at Gulfstream.

"Striking Dancer is an impressive filly and we are pretty confident that she is a Group performer," McPeek said. "She's very, very talented and she may even have more potential than Dream Empress. She's going to be running in the Bonnie Miss S. ([G2] on March 27) at Gulfstream Park. That's over nine furlongs but I am hopeful that she can stay a mile and a half. She's by Smart Strike and out of a Danehill mare, so I think that she will handle it.

"We will see how both horses come out of their next races and I would anticipate sending them over in mid to late April. Ideally, they would both have a prep race before the Oaks, possibly over 10 furlongs."

Among the entry at present is George Strawbridge's unbeaten RAINBOW VIEW (Dynaformer) and FANTASIA (Sadler's Wells), runner-up to that division leader in the Fillies' Mile (Eng-G1) at Ascot in September.

On the California worktab

Grade 1 heroine GOLDEN DOC A (Unusual Heat), unraced since an off-the-board run in the November 8 Mrs. Revere S. (G2), worked a half-mile in :48 2/5 over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride on Thursday.

Stakes winner and multiple Grade 3-placed LEONIDES (Richter Scale) covered five-eighths in 1:01 3/5.

Grade 2-placed LIBERIAN FREIGHTER (Bertrando), second by a head in the Crystal Water H. last out, worked four furlongs in :51 1/5 on the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park.

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