ARCADIA, Calif. -- Twirling Candy broke Spectacular Bid's 30-year-old track record for seven furlongs with a nose victory in Sunday's $250,000 Malibu Stakes on the first card run on the new dirt track at Santa Anita.
Twirling Candy won the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes by the narrowest of margins over Smiling Tiger, finishing in 1:19.70. Spectacular Bid was timed in 1:20 when he won the same race in 1980.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Twirling Candy stalked the pace for the first half-mile in the Malibu and caught Smiling Tiger in the final sixteenth. Caracortado finished third in the field of 11. Noble's Promise, the 3-1 favorite, could only finish fifth.
Twirling Candy's time was the second track record set on Sunday's opening day program. Earlier, The Factor ran six furlongs in 1:06.98 in a maiden race for 2-year-olds, lowering the previous mark of 1:07.20 set by Sunny Blossom in 1989.
Sunday's program was the first day of racing on the sand-and-clay track installed in November. In October, Santa Anita removed a synthetic surface after a troubled three-year span in which the surface had trouble draining in wet weather.
Twirling Candy ($9) gave trainer John Sadler and Rosario their third consecutive stakes wins on Sunday's program. Earlier, they teamed to win the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes with Switch and the $150,000 Sir Beaufort Stakes with Sidney's Candy. Both Sidney's Candy and Twirling Candy are owned by Jenny Craig, who bred the colts with her late husband, Sidney.
The Malibu was Twirling Candy's most prestigious win, and the fifth victory of his six-race career. He has earned $459,900 in a career that includes turf stakes wins in the Oceanside Stakes and Del Mar Derby during the summer at Del Mar.
Twirling Candy had not started since finishing fourth as the 7-10 favorite in the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes at Hollywood Park in October. Following that race, Sadler and Jenny Craig opted to point him for the winter meeting at Santa Anita and pass on a Breeders' Cup race at Churchill Downs in early November.
Sadler missed his stable's success on Sunday because of a knee infection.
"This is a very, very good horse," Sadler said from home of Twirling Candy. "He got beat once and we were shocked. I thought he wasn't right. After that race, the conversation I had with Jenny was I thought we had one of the top horses for next year."
Sadler said he expected a big day from Switch, Sidney's Candy and Twirling Candy. In addition, his stable's Contemplated finished third in the California Breeders' Champion Stakes.
"I thought I ran three horses that could win the stakes today," he said. "Contemplated ran a good third. I was loaded up on opening day."
Sadler said was at the stable on Sunday morning, but told his clients that his knee was uncomfortable. "I called them and said I couldn't go all day," he said.
Sadler credited assistant Larry Benavidez, who became a bit of a media star on Sunday, discussing the stable's success with reporters three times in a little more than an hour.