Yo Yo Candy Looks for Another Saratoga Upset in G1 Hopeful

September 3, 2023

Yo Yo Candy pulls away in the July 15 Sanford at a big price (NYRA/Coglianese)

NYRA Press Office

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— Happy Tenth Stable enjoyed their first-ever graded stakes win when the Daniel Velazquez-trained Yo Yo Candy edged clear to a 2 1/4-length score at odds of 46-1 in the six-furlong Grade 3 Sanford on July 15 at Saratoga Race Course. The Danzing Candy colt will return to the Spa on Monday in search of another upset in the seven-furlong Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful for 2-year-olds.

Tom Lamont, who operates Happy Tenth Stable with his wife, Kathy, were not on hand for the upset win, choosing to instead attend the races at Monmouth Park near their New Jersey home and cheer on their 2-year-old filly Factorbella, who dead-heated for third in a maiden special weight.

“It was one of many bad choices in a life of bad choices,” said Lamont, with a laugh. “It didn’t look like we had much of a chance. It’s a three-hour drive to Saratoga and the race wasn’t until after six and we had a horse running at Monmouth. It seemed at the time like the right idea.”

Yo Yo Candy, a debut maiden winner in May at Parx, had finished a distant third to Gold Sweep in the Tremont in June at Belmont Park and was a definite underdog heading into a rematch with his familiar foe in the Sanford. But the odds shifted in the Lamonts’ favor when Gold Sweep stumbled at the break and trailed.

“It [the stumble] didn’t really register with me at the time. I knew he was back there somewhere and I knew others were coming,” said Lamont, who watched the race from home on TV.

Lamont said he experienced a range of emotions familiar to horse owners and handicappers as the race unfolded with Yo Yo Candy tracking comfortably in third before angling out and taking command at the stretch call under returning rider Angel Castillo.

“Our horse was doing alright. The pace looks decent. Holy crap – he could actually win! And sure enough, he did,” recalled Lamont.

Gold Sweep, trained by Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen and piloted by Jose Ortiz, came running late but the race was already over. While Lamont can certainly relate to the ups and downs one can experience in horse racing, he was quick to give Yo Yo Candy some credit after emerging victorious in the nine-horse field.

“Hey, we beat every other horse in the race that didn’t stumble,” Lamont said.

The 76-year-old Lamont was born in New York but grew up in New Jersey and attended the races at Monmouth Park in his youth.

“My father would take me to the racetrack and I liked that, but what I really wanted to do was get involved in sports from the inside,” Lamont said.

When dreams of owning a baseball team and being part of a syndicate managing prize fighters failed to materialize, he got involved in a harness racing partnership in 1976. In the mid-1980s he made the move to thoroughbred racing with trainer John Tammaro, III and secured their first win with Little Hero in 1985 at Garden State Park. Happy Tenth Stable continued to expand and they now have 16 horses in training spread out amongst Velazquez and his father Freddy Velazquez, as well as former Tammaro, III assistants Tony Wilson and Leslielyn Hardesty.

Lamont is retired from a 40-year career as a reporter/editor for Institutional Investor, a trade magazine reporting on the financial industry that was later acquired by Euromoney. The Lamonts now reside in Clearwater, Florida near Tampa Bay Downs and spend much of the summer months in New Jersey.

Lamont said the buzz of the track continues to bring the couple great joy.

“I love the excitement and thoroughly enjoy all the people we’ve met along the way. As Red Smith used to say, ‘there’s a lot of very interesting characters if you hang around a racetrack long enough,'” Lamont quipped. “The best thing about it is the people I’ve been associated with are all square shooters. They’re honest and decent and people you’d want to work with.”

He credits Velazquez with running a detail-oriented operation that helped Yo Yo Candy straighten out – quite literally – and close the gap on his more fancied rivals when the trainer fitted the improving colt with blinkers, a new bit and a tongue strap ahead of his Sanford coup.

“He could have finished second in the Tremont but he couldn’t run a straight line for the last furlong. So, Danny took a good look at him – he’s very systematic and analytical. He added some blinkers and said, ‘let’s see what happens.’ And boom it happened,” Lamont said.

The Sanford marked just the third career stakes score for Happy Tenth Stable, arriving 12 years after the Wilson-trained Deliburnsky – whose win photos still adorn their New Jersey home – captured the Jersey Juvenile at Monmouth and Dave’s Friend at Laurel Park in back-to-back fashion.

On Monday, they’ll look to overcome a 20-1 morning line assessment and possibly longer odds than their 46-1 Sanford score when Yo Yo Candy emerges from post 2 in a field of 11. But Lamont notes their stable does have some form in doubling up against the odds.

“Back in the mid-2000s, we had a horse named Lord Starson and he was a maiden and 0-for-14 and never hit the board. He had one speed – slow,” recalled Lamont, with a laugh. “It’s 100 degrees at Monmouth and he’s in a maiden $10,000 and they open the gate and for whatever reason, a number of horses broke out of there.”

The July 27, 2005 race saw a field of eight burst from the gate and the Tammaro, III-trained Lord Starson rated in sixth position some 8 1/2-lengths off the pace under Joe Rocco. But one-by-one, the Lord Carson gelding began to pick off his rivals.

“It was like the tortoise and the hare,” Lamont said. “He won the race at 55-1. That was just amazing. We won as much money through the window as we did in purse money. In his next race, he went in against winners at 37-1 and he won again. So, who can tell in this game.”

Lamont knows Yo Yo Candy will have an uphill battle on Monday with the returning Gold Sweep, the Brad Cox-trained Timberlake and a pair each from Hall of Fame trainers Bob Baffert [Muth, Mission Beach] and Todd Pletcher [Pirate, Be You] to deal with in a stacked field.

“Between Muth and Gold Sweep, I think they’ll take most of the money and that will send everyone else in the other direction [on the odds board],” Lamont said. “The field for Monday looks kind of awesome, but what do I know – with 2-year-olds, from one day to the next they get a lot better or a lot worse. I’d say all in all, it’s a tougher field. But, when we win, it’s usually anywhere from 5-1 on up. I’m perfectly happy with being overlooked.”

Lamont said a good result on Monday could propel the connections – horse, trainer and owners alike – to their first ever Breeders’ Cup with the Grade 1, $2 million Juvenile slated for November 3 at Santa Anita Park.

“If we get a good trip, it’s reasonable that we can be in the mix. It would indeed be redemption for us,” said Lamont, who noted he and Kathy will be onsite Monday at Saratoga. “I would hope if we finish on the board that the Breeders’ Cup would be a consideration. The only way I’d ever get to the Breeders’ Cup before was to buy a ticket!”

As an added harbinger of impending good fortune for Happy Tenth Stable, it may be worth noting that the Hopeful, like the Sanford, will go as Race 10.

“Kathy and I met on the 10th of April in 1979 and we were subsequently married. In the early days, on every 10th of the month we would say to each other ‘happy tenth,'” Lamont said. “So, when it came time to name the stable we decided on Happy Tenth. Well, we’re the 10th race again on Monday, so maybe lightning strikes twice.”

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