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Fernando Mania

Posted by Brian Mulligan on 1/12/2011 10:53:28 AM

It’s been 30 years since Fernando Valenzuela started on the mound opening day for the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 9, 1981 and ushered in Fernando Mania but this weekend those that love the equine set have a shot to take a swing at the San Fernando Stakes.

Strictly for 4-year-olds and carded 8 and a half furlongs, the 59th running of the Grade 2 San Fernando goes Saturday as 16 have nominated and the race over the decades has seen its share of stars.

The late great Bill Shoemaker won this race 8 times starting in 1955 with Poona 11 and for the last time in 1980 with arguably the greatest horse ever to look through a bridle, Spectacular Bid.

In between names like Round Table, Buckpasser, Damascus, Radar Ahead, Bertrando and two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow greeted their connections in the charmed winner’s circle.

Last year Papa Clem parlayed a third in the Grade 1 Malibu with a solid 2-hole trip to hang on by a half length with a 97 Beyer in 1:42.64.

This year, Haimish Hy could be a serious late threat if he can take to the dirt. He has been expertly managed by Art Sherman and is fresh from a neck win in the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby on grass.

Speedball Sidney’s Candy will once again be the one to collar. He took 5 of 8 last year and kicked off 2011 on this track tow-roping a small field by over 7 lengths with a 103 Beyer.

He could prove once again very tough to reel in.

Arch rivals to Candy, Indian Firewater and Nextdoorneighbor may try to turn the tables. Neighbor is looking for his first stakes win while Firewater won a $55K stakes going 7 and a half furlongs in November at Hollywood Park.

Victory With Honor will have to pass the acid test if he goes. He won two in a row to close out 2010 but has never been tested in this company. Make Music For Me has never won on dirt, but was game beating much softer in mid-December.

Leading trainer Bob Baffert could be represented by Tweebster, who just turned the hat trick at this very distance across town.

Do It All is Victory With Honor’s stablemate. He has only won once but was getting to the winner in his last race at Golden Gate.

The biggest threat to Sidney if he suits up could be Malibu hero Twirling Candy. He’s won two Graded stakes, has only lost once in his career and was only beaten a half length in the Goodwood by Dakota Phone, who came back and won BC Day. The smart thing to do with this horse is to find another spot rather than challenged stablemate Sidney. Both horses are owned by the Craig Family Trust.

It would figure that Sidney will not change his style and he will be gunning at the sound of the bell. Those that want to take up the chase, run the risk of getting burned out and getting nothing.

Those that have to satisfy a sweet tooth could get paid with Sidney on Saturday if and only if there can be value found underneath in a gimmick.

Good luck.

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