top of page

Handicapping - Pedigree - History - Dosage

Is It Too Early For Some Valentine Candy?

#10 Valentine Candy - Trained by Steve Asmussen

This past weekend, Otto the Conqueror captured 10 points for his win in the Springboard Mile at Remington. Trained by Steve Asmussen, the colt closely stalked Glengarry and prevailed by 3/4 of a length on the 8f muddy surface.

He is now the talk of the town as a player for the Kentucky Derby.

Reminiscent of 2019, when Bill Mott's charge, Hidden Scroll, was the talk of the internet based on his flashy maiden win. His name was splattered everywhere. Hidden Scroll was wildly anticipated for success as the favorite in both the Fountain of Youth and the Florida Derby.

In complete contrast, the horse took a severe beating in both races and was quickly forgotten.

Prior to those two Derby Prep starts, we had already established the true potential superstar that was quietly lurking in Bill Mott's barn at the time. His name was Country House and he was eventually crowned the winner of the 2020 Kentucky Derby.

What differentiates a real handicapper from those who follow the crowd is one who looks past the spectacle and concentrates on the horses themselves. Asmussen may have a player in Otto the Conqueror for the prep season, but what is lurking in the background for this trainer is an even bigger potential superstar. One who is actually built for the Kentucky race.

His name is Valentine Candy.

This son of Justify has been entered into 5 races so far from 5.5f to 7f. He has been "hit and miss" along the way. This is not surprising.

With barely a race record to even take notice of (5-2-1-1), it appears to be a déjà vu with Country House at the same time. This is because of the adverse distances they had competed in up to that date.

Valentine Candy is not a speed demon, nor is he a sprinter. His last race (video above) in the 5.5f Advent Stakes at Oaklawn showed incredible winning speed agility against a full field of eleven other opponents. His maturity is progressing and with being "forced" to compete in these short speedy races against the grain, he will eventually elevate when asked to finally show his stamina side. His speed side is now coming through, but that side is not the key.

Every year, it seems there is one sire that stands out with the ability to pass through the dominant qualities that are necessary for these big races. This year, I'm all about Justify. This is based on all of the early successes in Japan on dirt. It is also based on the top young horse abroad right now, City of Troy. Seems everything is pointing to Justify as the one who is hitting the right mark with both amazing speed and killer endurance traits.

In most all cases, that stamina side is also enhanced by the mares as well and Justify's sons are tearing apart their races both here and abroad.


DP - 2-4-6-0-0 (12) DI = 3.00 CD = 0.67

Mare Profile = 7-1-5-7-10 Speed = 8 Stamina = 17 Index = 0.63 Triads = 13-13-22

This colt has inherited the potential to run 11.25f easily. Fantastic readable mare stamina with a 9 point spread, low .63 mare index and 22 large points in the Classic through to the Professional categories. Based on these configurations, Valentine's speed is dwarfed by both the chefs and the mare's stamina that they passed down.

The fact that he could pull off a very fast 5.5f win in the Advent stakes is in complete opposition to how he is built and there is a reason why he has been on and off with these short races. The simple answer; he is not built for sprinting races but he has displayed that "Justify" speed capability as a 2 year old in spite of it.

The presence of Candy Ride in the second generation of his mare line is also quite telling.

The 10f+ stamina potential from this sire is outrageously high, even producing those who thrive on turf. Extremely strong influence that generally makes its presence known later in the season. The fact that Asmussen has already pushed him in 5 races this early in the season makes the likelihood that his credentials will shine earlier than most. Additionally, the fact that these are races where the horse is asked to perform against the grain of breeding speaks volumes.

Between the mares undeniable dominance in stamina influence, the Candy Ride factor and Justify's speed spread across the board with his offspring, Valentine Candy is built to endure magnificent speed as long as the track wants to go.

There is simply no comparision between Asmussen's Otto the Conqueror and Valentine Candy. He smashes him when it comes to Kentucky Derby potential.

This horse has a scale and balance very similarly to a horse like Irish War Cry. Remember, Irish War Cry came in second in the Belmont Stakes. He was not a sprinter either. Endurance was his stronghold.

The following is a list of sires found in Valentine Candy's first 4 generations who have proven time and time again to have the ability to produce an enormous amount of Graded Stakes winners within their given category - REGARDLESS OF THE MARE'S INPUT THAT THEY MATED WITH:

A.P. Indy - Intermediate/Classic

Mr. Prospector - Brilliant/Classic

Awesome Again - Intermediate/Classic

Pulpit - Intermediate/Classic

Seattle Slew - Brilliant/Classic

When adding in his listed prominent non-chefs, this horse's chef index rises to a 3.67, with the added influence of Hennessey (B,I) but still retains a CD of 0.79 - if observed. This could be the reason why his running style favors the lead tier. Based on his full set of configurations, his perserverence with his energy should easily stay intact the further he goes.

With the Belmont Stakes now being run at Saratoga at 10f as opposed to 12f, the dynamics should still remain exactly the same. For the horse who wins the Kentucky Derby, he will also need to be holding not only enough speed to prevail but the stamina to come back so quickly for another start in the Preakness.

Most importantly, he will need to be holding a great deal of stamina in order to pull off yet another 10f win on a completely different bias. Since we are not dealing with a 12f race, we should see most of the same players from the Derby as opposed to a whole new set of "so-called" 12f players.

Entries who go from one 10f race to another 10f race from May 4th to June 8th will absolutely need to be holding S-T-A-M-I-N-A regardless of the 10f distance. Those entries who came in below the winner in the Derby now have a valid excuse for trying their luck yet again - without the daunting task of 12f plaguing them.

We should see the top players from the Derby entered into the Belmont. Pure stamina will still be a huge criteria. In this regard, this Belmont edition may in fact be a much harder grind because of the 10f caliber entered as opposed to the usual Belmont where only three or four true 12f entries show up.

Because of the same turn-around time and the expanded amount of "10f players" now being entered to try again, displayed speed with premium inherited stamina may be even more important than it was before.

Valentine Candy has the correct build for May and June. He has shown competitiveness with his short speed but it is his stamina credentials with that inherited speed that puts him in the spotlight moving forward - 9f and over.

Most importantly and just like Country House, nothing overtly flashy in the early stages going so short, but still competitive none-the-less. A win in a Derby Prep race (like Otto) does not overshadow what a horse can or cannot do as the distances progress. When it comes to Steve Asmussen's barn, Valentine Candy has a major leg up for the Triple Crown.


bottom of page