Valentine Candy Gets Sweet Rewards in Bachelor

April 28, 2024

Valentine Candy. (Coady Media)

Steve Asmussen wins record nine Bachelor Stakes at Oaklawn Park

By Robert Yates 

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – It was another sweet ending at Oaklawn for Valentine Candy, whose late burst of speed propelled his Hall of Fame trainer onto a new page of the Oaklawn record book.

Valentine Candy became the first horse in 33 years to win four stakes races at an Oaklawn meeting in the $200,000 Bachelor for 3-year-old sprinters before an estimated crowd of 22,000 on a mostly cloudy, windy Saturday afternoon.

Under regular rider Ricardo Santana Jr., Valentine Candy, the 7-5 favorite, collared front-running Frost Free on the outside inside the sixteenth pole enroute to a 1 ½-length victory. Frost Free held second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Cats by Five. Time for Truth, Bergen, Market Street and Drewmania completed the order of finish.

Valentine Candy ($4.80) represented the record 10th stakes victory of the 2023-2024 Oaklawn meeting for Steve Asmussen, who already holds local training records for victories (942) and titles (12). 

Asmussen also became the first trainer in Oaklawn history to win the same stakes race nine times, breaking a record he shared with Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. In addition to the Bachelor, Asmussen has won the Carousel eight times. Baffert has eight victories in the Rebel, a major Kentucky Derby prep.

Valentine Candy, a chestnut son of 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, punctuated his 4 for 4 Oaklawn campaign in the six-furlong Bachelor. Valentine Candy previously won the 150,000 Advent Stakes at 5 ½ furlongs Dec. 8, $150,000 Renaissance Stakes at six furlongs Dec. 31 and $150,000 Ozark Stakes at six furlongs Feb. 10.

Overpeer was the last four-time stakes winner during a single Oaklawn season. He completed the feat in 1991. The first was Rare Brick in 1985.

Following a good break from post 6, Valentine Candy tracked Frost Free through swift fractions of :21.68 for the opening quarter and :45.17 for a half-mile. Frost Free held a two-length advantage in midstretch before being worn down late. Valentine Candy, under top weight of 124 pounds, covered six furlongs over a good surface in 1:10.18.

Valentine Candy won for the fifth time in nine starts to push his lifetime earnings to $477,875. Valentine Candy returned to dirt after prepping for the Bachelor with a fourth-place finish in the $250,000 Animal Kingdom Stakes over a synthetic surface March 23 at Turfway Park. The Animal Kingdom was also six furlongs.

A $250,000 yearling purchase, Valentine Candy races for an ownership group that includes Texans William and Corinne Heiligbrodt. Asmussen and the Heiligbrodts teamed to win the 2018 Bachelor with future Eclipse Award recipient Mitole and last year’s running with Ryvit. 

Asmussen also won the Bachelor in 1996 (Valid Expectations), 2008 (Lantana Mob), 2015 (Holy Boss), 2016 (Counterforce), 2019 (Nitrous) and 2021 (Jaxon Traveler).

The Bachelor was the 66th victory of the 2023-2024 meeting for Asmussen, establishing a single-season personal best at Oaklawn, and his record-extending 114th career Oaklawn stakes victory. 

Bachelor Quotes

Winning Jockey (Ricardo Santana Jr./Valentine Candy): “This is a super horse. I just waited as long as I could because he’s got such a short kick. I just waited turning for him. I wasn’t worried about the horse on the lead (Frost Free). When I asked him, he responded well.”

Winning Trainer (Steve Asmussen/Valentine Candy): “Just very happy to get him back here. Wonderful sprint series opportunities offered here and he’s the perfect horse for it. He’s very exciting and we expect him to have a big future.”

Second-place jockey (Ramon Vazquez/Frost Free): “I felt good at the quarter-pole. He was doing it easy. The other horse (Valentine Candy) just flew home.”

@jonathanstettin @PastTheWire @BOBCOL Is there anyone and I mean ANYONE better than Mr. Stettin?? I don’t think so. Thank you sir!

Paul Culpo (@PaulCulpo) View testimonials

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