Candy Man Rocket Launches Comeback in GP Sprint

February 21, 2024

Candy Man Rocket wins last year’s edition of the Gulfstream Park Sprint (Lauren King)

David Joseph/Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.— Frank Fletcher Racing Operations, Inc.’s two-time Grade 3 winner Candy Man Rocket, unraced since last summer, is set to launch his comeback as the defending champion in Saturday’s $125,000 Gulfstream Park Sprint.

The 46th running of the six-furlong Gulfstream Park Sprint for 4-year-olds and up headlines a 12-race program that begins at 12:10 p.m.

A victory by 6-year-old Candy Man Rocket would not only make him the first back-to-back winner of the Gulfstream Park Sprint but the only horse to win the race twice. He would also match four other horses as the second-oldest winner behind 7-year-old Force Freeze in 2012.

Candy Man Rocket’s most recent race came 239 days ago, when he overcame a bump at the break to take a short lead into the stretch of the seven-furlong John A. Nerud (G3) last July 1 at Belmont Park but tired to third, beaten 3 ¾ lengths.

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott put the son of Candy Ride on the bench and slowly brought him back, giving him eight timed works since mid-December at Payson Park. In his most recent, he went a half-mile in 48.60 seconds Feb. 12.

“He’s had some very minor problems and instead of pushing him, Bill just gives him the time just like with American Rockette and several others,” Fletcher’s racing manager, Kathy Howard, said. “Nothing’s ever been majorly wrong with him. He’s very sound.”

Candy Man Rocket has overcome long gaps in his form before, returning from 351 days between starts to capture a six-furlong optional claiming allowance last February at Gulfstream, where he owns a perfect 4-0 record. He followed up that race with a popular two-length triumph in last year’s Gulfstream Park Sprint.

“This horse has come back from a long layoff to win before, so we’re just excited that he’s back in action,” Howard said. “Bill has been very pleased with the way he’s been training.”

Candy Man Rocket made a brief stop on the Triple Crown trail in 2021 when he won the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs before finishing off the board in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and Wood Memorial (G2). After having a three-race win streak snapped following the Gulfstream Park Sprint, he rebounded with a 1 ½-length score in the six-furlong Runhappy (G3) at Belmont.

“He’s been very exciting and he just seems to show up for us all the time. You can’t ask for anything nicer than that,” Howard said. “He’s pretty special and pretty consistent. He seems to do well when Bill gives him the time off, so we’re hoping for the best. It would be wonderful to win it again.”

Jose Ortiz is named to ride Candy Man Rocket from Post 6 in a field of 10.

Dean Delivers secures the victory in the Smile Sprint (G3) July 1 at Gulfstream Park (Coglianese)

Also making his season debut in the Gulfstream Park Sprint is Stonehedge’s 5-year-old homebred gelding Dean Delivers. The Michael Yates trainee is coming off a 2023 campaign where he was third or better in six of eight starts including wins in the Smile Sprint (G3) and Big Drama at Gulfstream and a third in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) at Saratoga.

Approaching $500,000 in purse earnings, Dean Delivers has been first or second in 12 of 16 lifetime starts at Gulfstream. In his most recent start, he ran second by a nose in the seven-furlong Florida Sire Series Marion County Dec. 9 at Tampa Bay Downs. Emisael Jaramillo has the call from outermost Post 10.

Mad Dog Racing Stable and Joseph Parker’s Loco Abarrio is entered to make his 16 start and 15 at Gulfstream, the exception coming last January when he ran fifth in the seven-furlong Pasco at Tampa, his only previous stakes attempt. A determined neck winner over multiple stakes winner Super Chow Dec. 24 in his season finale, he returns to the dirt following a disappointing effort on the all-weather Tapeta sprinting 5 ½ furlongs Feb. 1.

“If he has a fair trip, this race will tell a lot,” trainer Ron Spatz said. “Either he’s up to this level of competition, or he’s just not that kind of horse.”

Edwin Gonzalez gets the riding assignment from Post 2.

Tequesta Racing Inc. and Jupiter Leasing Co.’s Ironstone won the 1 1/8-mile Ontario Derby (G3) on Woodbine’s all-weather surface in October 2022, one start after running second in the second leg of Canada’s Triple Crown, Fort Erie’s Prince of Wales, his last race on dirt. Cut back to sprinting last spring, the 5-year-old exits a one-length optional claiming allowance win going 6 ½ furlongs at Woodbine Dec. 10.

Nicholas Cammarano Jr.’s Scaramouche also found graded success in 2022, winning the six-furlong Gallant Bob (G2) at Parx, but has yet to find the winner’s circle since. Seventh in last year’s Gulfstream Park Sprint, he finished fourth, beaten 3 ¼ lengths, in a seven-furlong optional claiming allowance Jan. 20 at Gulfstream.

Grade 2-placed Long Range Toddy and Hurricane J, respectively fourth and sixth in the Mr. Prospector (G3) Dec. 23 at Gulfstream; Run Classic, third in the 1 1/16-mile Mineshaft (G3) last February and unraced since winning a seven-furlong optional claiming allowance on the undercard of last year’s Kentucky Derby (G1); 2023 Jersey Shore winner Swirvin and Chilean-bred Todo Fino, third to Dean Delivers in the Smile Sprint, complete the field.

@JakeBLues23231 @jonathanstettin @PastTheWire and selections were made at 8/1 12/1/10/1 M/L. Must be we are all so far ahead we pound!

Bill Mentes @drbillym View testimonials