Trainer Ian Wilkes earned his first Grade I stakes victory, but needed the right verdict from the stewards to go it.
Capt. Candyman Can was bumped twice by Vineyard Haven in the stretch of the 25th $300,000 King’s Bishop, and although Vineyard Haven surged past Wilkes’ 3-year-old gelding to cross the finish line first, he was taken down following a stewards’ inquiry and replaced by Capt. Candyman Can Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
“Life is good right now,” said Wilkes. “I’ll take it any way I can.”
Wilkes thought his horse was interfered with, but he wasn’t sure how the stewards would handle it.
“We thought there was some contact, but that’s a decision for the stewards to make,” he said after the seven-furlong sprint. “I thought they made the right decision. I thought he [Capt. Candyman Can] was going to go right by Vineyard Haven. Watching it live, I said to Tracy, ‘I think there was some contact; I think the other horse came out.’ But it was hard to tell until you saw the head-on.”
Capt Candyman Can’s jockey, Javier Castellano, who earlier won the Ballston Spa, wasn’t surprised by the stewards’ decision.
“He [Vineyard Haven and jockey Alan Garcia] came out, and he bumped twice into me and my horse. He hit my horse right in the shoulder and caused him to lose his momentum, and he still only got beat by a head.
“That’s what cost me the race today. Without the bump, [Capt. Candyman Can] would definitely have pulled away to win. It was very obvious. You can see my horse was going to get by the other horse. He felt really strong today.”
There was obvious disappointment in Vineyard Haven’s camp.
“I’m very proud — I mean, he won the race. It’s just too bad it happened like it did,” said trainer Saeed bin Suroor. “It was just an accident. The jockey tried to keep him straight; he tried to pull him over two or three times.
“It’s just one of those things that happens in races. I’m happy he’s back and that he ran well. We’ll find another race for him. I’m pleased, but I’d be more pleased if he had actually won.”
Garcia loved his horse’s effort. Vineyard Haven led virtually the entire race until the stretch run.
“He came out of the gate running. Coming for home, he was starting to get a little bit tired, and came out at the end. He overreacted when I was trying to bring him back to the inside.”
Capt. Candyman Can has now won three of his last four races and was second in the other. It was his sixth win in 10 career starts.
Wilkes only had one win in 11 previous races at this meet.
“I’m just going to enjoy myself tonight, and we’ll figure out what’s next for him. I still have some racing here at Saratoga before I leave,” he said.
Capt. Candyman Can paid $9.80, $4.50 and $3.30, while Vineyard Haven, placed second by the stewards, paid $5.80 and $3.40. Munnings, the beaten favorite with three wins in eight previous starts, paid $2.60 for third.
“Johnny [jockey Johnny Velazquez] said he wasn’t getting a hold of the track,” said Munnings’ trainer, Todd Pletcher. “He gave me a good effort, but he just didn’t like the track today.”
“I had a good trip, he just had a little bit of trouble taking hold of the track,” said Velazquez. “He was in perfect position. I had no problem. He just didn’t like the track, that’s all.”
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