By Mary Eddy
SARATOGA – Trainer Daniel Velazquez visited the Saratoga Race Course winner’s circle for the first time in stylish fashion Saturday when Yo Yo Candy posted a monstrous upset in the Grade 3, $175,000 Sanford, a six-furlong main track sprint for juveniles.
Sent to post at odds of 46-1, Yo Yo Candy stalked and pounced to a 2 1/4-length victory under Angel Castillo, giving Velazquez his second graded victory after taking Aqueduct Racetrack’s Grade 2 Remsen in 2020 with Brooklyn Strong.
“I jumped from the balcony over here,” said Velazquez. “I don’t even know how I got here. This is a dream come true. As a kid, you dream of winning races here and here I am.”
The win was also the first North American graded score for Castillo, who won three Group 1 events in Venezuela prior to moving his tack to America.
“I’m always looking for opportunities to demonstrate my talent and I try to take my one or two opportunities,” said Castillo. “The trip was very good. I had a good start and good position in the race. In the turn, he charged outside and in the stretch he ran very good.”
The dynamics of the race were altered dramatically when post-time favorite Gold Sweep, who boasted the highest speed figures in the field, broke awkwardly from post 8 under Jose Ortiz and was left at the back of the nine-horse field. Yo Yo Candy broke cleanly from post 4 and tucked in fourth behind pacesetter Dickens, who marked an opening quarter-mile in 22.15 seconds over the fast main track.
Market Street loomed large on the outside of Dickens down the backstretch and into the turn, sticking his head in front midway through the turn while Yo Yo Candy took up third position from a fading Call the Cavalry under patient handling from Castillo. Ortiz got to work aboard Gold Sweep and guided his charge in between foes to range into contention with a swift turn of foot after a half-mile in 45.83.
A stubborn Dickens refused to yield along the rail as the field made its way into the stretch with Market Street battling to his outside and Yo Yo Candy moving three-wide with dead aim on the leaders. Market Street backpedaled nearing the eighth pole and with just one foe left to tackle, Yo Yo Candy swept past a resolute Dickens in the final sixteenth to fend off the late surge of Gold Sweep and draw off to victory in a final time of 1:11.83.
Gold Sweep got up to land place honors by three-quarter lengths over Dickens, who secured show by a neck over Triple Trea. Call the Cavalry, Market Street, Jive, His Rights and Ramming Speed completed the order of finish. Factor U and Me In was scratched.
Call the Cavalry was pulled up by jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the gallop out and was vanned off after walking onto the ambulance.
Yo Yo Candy entered the Sanford from a distant third-place effort to a runaway Gold Sweep in the 5 1/2-furlong Tremont on June 11 at Belmont where he broke a step slow and improved position throughout to pick up show honors. He added blinkers for the Sanford, a move Velazquez said helped lead to a sharper break.
“The blinkers adjustment was huge. In his last race, we didn’t have the blinkers because he won first time out and we were happy with that,” said Velazquez. “I watched him break last time and he broke a little sluggish. He has more speed than that tactically. I added the blinkers and took him back to the gate a couple of times after the race. I told Angel, ‘If he’s as good as we think he is, we’re going to be competitive.’ No respect on the board, but we knew coming in that we did everything right coming into this race. I was very, very satisfied watching him out there warm up.”
Velazquez said he will relish the Sanford victory for now, but could consider the Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful on September 3 for the colt’s next start.
“Honestly, I just want to go home and dry off and we’ll go from there,” said Velazquez. “But definitely the Hopeful could be in there, but we want to take it one day at a time.”
Bred in California by Checkmate Thoroughbreds, Yo Yo Candy scored the second win of his career and added to a debut maiden victory in May at Parx Racing. The son of Danzing Candy banked $96,250 for his Sanford victory, boosting his total purse earnings to $141,250. He returned $94 for a $2 win ticket.
Jose Ortiz, who guided the Steve Asmussen-trained Gold Sweep to his dominant nine-length win in the Tremont, said the son of Speightstown ran valiantly despite the troubled start.
“He was standing good,” said Ortiz. “He popped out when the door opened and went as fast as he could. I think that kind of made everything go wrong. He stumbled badly and I tried to ride him with a lot of passion after that. He came back for second, but it was a lot to do for him, and he did it. I’m very proud of his effort, just very unlucky. Very unlucky.”