Candy Man Rocket soars to victory in G3 Runhappy | NYRA
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May 13, 2023
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Candy Man Rocket soars to victory in G3 Runhappy

by Keith McCalmont

Frank Fletcher Racing Operations’ Candy Man Rocket, expertly piloted by Junior Alvarado, stalked and pounced to an impressive score in Saturday’s Grade 3, $175,000 Runhappy, a six-furlong sprint for older horses, at Belmont Park.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the 5-year-old Candy Ride horse has won 3-of-4 starts this year, including a score in the Gulfstream Park Sprint in February. But, last out in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Handicap on April 15 at Oaklawn Park, Candy Man Rocket acted up pre-race and ran an uncharacteristic last-of-10.

Candy Man Rocket was better behaved – for the most part – on this day and returned to winning form with aplomb.

“He wasn’t great in saddling today – he was a little wound up. I was a little concerned,” Mott said. “Junior said when he got on the track he settled down. At least he showed up. The other day he just spit it out. He can run, he’s just got to get the right trip."

Beren, the 7-5 mutuel favorite under Irad Ortiz, Jr., and the Andy Hernandez-piloted Twisted Ride dueled through an opening quarter-mile in 22.60 seconds and a half-mile in 45.15 over the fast main track with Candy Man Rocket enjoying the pace battle from third.

Alvarado gave Candy Man Rocket his cue through the turn and the dark bay responded in kind, putting a head in front at the stretch call and battling briefly with a game Twisted Ride as Beren faded. Candy Man Rocket was in command for good at the furlong marker and powered through the wire a 1 1/2-length winner in a final time of 1:09.33. Twisted Ride completed the exacta by a half-length over Stage Left with Drafted, Beren and Mr Phil rounding out the order of finish.

Alvarado has guided the dark bay through each of his last nine starts and said he was relieved to be back in the winner’s circle after the Oaklawn experience.

“To be honest, we weren’t expecting him to be nice and relaxed in the saddling area, because last time when they went to saddle him, we kind of lost him right there in the paddock and post parade,” Alvarado said. “By the time I got on, he was all washed out and very nervous. Then, warming up he never relaxed and I knew he wasn’t going to give me his best effort – that’s what happened. You’ve got to draw a line through his last race. Today, he behaved in the post parade and warming up and he was a complete gentleman, nice and relaxed. He came out with a big run today.”

Alvarado said the pace duel played into his hands.

“That was the trip we were looking for and thank God everything was setting up perfectly,” Alvarado said. “I was sitting right where I wanted to be and I had the horse right under me to help me. The rest was just him. I had to nudge him along a little bit turning for home and he responded so well. I thought he was traveling beautiful and he was just waiting for me. Right when we turned for home, I knew he was going to be there for me.”

The win-friendly Candy Man Rocket made the grade in the 2021 Grade 3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs and narrowly missed in that year’s Gold Fever here when a nose back of Beren. Mott said he will nominate Candy Man Rocket to the 6 1/2-furlong Grade 2, $250,000 True North on June 10 here.

The Pennsylvania-bred Twisted Ride, a multiple stakes winning son of Great Notion, shipped in from Parx for trainer Michael Moore on the back of a four-race win streak that included scores in the Fishtown and Page McKenney with Hernandez aboard.

“He ran great. He didn’t win but he finished a great second,” Hernandez said. “It’s a difficult race and he ran great. I was behind in the turn and I didn’t want to move too soon, but I didn’t want to wait too long. The number four [Candy Man Rocket] is a nice horse.”

Bred in Kentucky by R.S. Evans, Candy Man Rocket banked $96,250 in victory while improving his record to 11-6-1-0. He paid $7.40 for a $2 win ticket.

Live racing resumes Sunday at Belmont with a nine-race card, featuring the Grade 3, $175,000 Vagrancy in Race 8. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.

America's Day at the Races will present live coverage and analysis of the Belmont Park spring/summer meet on the networks of FOX Sports. For the broadcast schedule and channel finder, visit

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