Kentucky Derby Pedigree Profile: Candy Man Rocket

February 7th, 2021

What happens when you cross leading sire Candy Ride with a mare by Grade 1-winning sprinter Forestry? You wind up with Candy Man Rocket, who joined the Road to the Kentucky Derby with a determined pace-tracking victory in the Sam F. Davis S. (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs.

Speed has been a strong suit for Candy Man Rocket, who sold for $250,000 as a two-year-old. But although a cursory pedigree review might lead to the conclusion Candy Man Rocket is unlikely to handle 1 1/4 miles on the first Saturday in May, his bloodlines are actually a bit stouter than they appear at first glance.

First, let’s address the question of speed. Certainly Candy Ride possessed an abundance of it, which he used to secure multiple Group 1 wins racing one mile in his native Argentina. The same can be said of Candy Man Rocket’s dam, Kenny Lane, whose two career victories came over 5 1/2 furlongs and 7 1/2 furlongs. And Forestry secured his biggest win in the seven-furlong King’s Bishop (G1), where he tracked fractions of :21.67, :43.59, and 1:07.68 before edging clear to win in 1:21.00.

But viewing Candy Man Rocket’s pedigree from this perspective doesn’t paint the whole picture. Sure, Candy Ride had speed, but he also had enough stamina to defeat a deep field of Grade 1 winners in the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic (G1), dominating by 3 1/4 lengths in the track-record time of 1:59.11. At stud Candy Ride has sired sprinters and routers alike, but his best foals have been standouts running long, led by Horse of the Year Gun Runner and champion juveniles Shared Belief and Game Winner.

Forestry can also be viewed in a more encouraging light. Prior to being sold to Brazil in 2014, Forestry enjoyed a productive U.S. stud career, with Preakness (G1) winner Shackleford ranking as his most successful runner. Cigar Mile (G1) winner Discreet Cat, Starlet (G1) winner Diplomat Lady, and Monmouth Cup (G2) winner Etched also achieved noteworthy successes running one mile or farther.

Forestry’s record as a broodmare sire is even stronger. While his daughters have produced all types of runners (sprinters and routers, dirt horses and turf horses, etc.), there’s generally been more stamina in play than one might expect from a sprinter like Forestry. Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Nyquist is by far the best example, but champion grass mare Rushing Fall and 1 1/4-mile Manhattan (G1) winner Instilled Regard have also enjoyed consistent top-level success over route distances.

Only time will tell if Candy Man Rocket emulates Shackleford and Nyquist with success in the spring classics. But playing against the grain of public sentiment can be a lucrative approach to handicapping, and if the majority of bettors assume Candy Man Rocket is questionable to handle 1 1/4 miles, there might be value in looking on the bright side of his deceptively stout pedigree.