MIKE SMITH, DANZING CANDY, WINNER: “He warmed up great, he was on his toes. Our game plan was to put him on the lead unless he didn’t jump out of there well. We didn’t want to experiment. We wanted to play our hand, right off the bat. Let’s go to the lead and if they want to go with us, we’ll be probably be going too fast and if that’s the case, that’s the case. We were going to worry about it next time.
“We did it. I left there very aggressive and he didn’t get away with anything. If you go twenty-two on this track today, you’re smokin’. And for him to hold off the caliber of horses he held off, was very impressive.
“In the mornings we’ve been schooling with him and it doesn’t seem to be bothering him at all. I was pretty impressed with the caliber he showed today and the numbers that he put up. He’s flashy in the afternoon. He’s so easy on himself in the mornings and that’s a good thing. If he was a bit too aggressive in the morning it would probably take its toll on him.
“He’s a big horse. He’s still carrying a lot of flesh on him. There’s room to trim him down as we get closer to the Derby and we’re doing it little by little. He’s handling everything. He’s a big, beautiful horse and he’ll start tucking up as we get closer.
“We don’t do much with him. There’s room to tighten those screws, tighten him up.”
GARY STEVENS, MOR SPIRIT, SECOND: “I’m super happy, because he was way too keen in the early part of the race – he was really fresh, hasn’t run for a while. He was super sharp. As I was coming into the lane, I knew I wasn’t going to catch the winner, but I knew we had to get some (Kentucky Derby) points here. I like where we’re sitting for the Santa Anita Derby. I lost a battle today, but I like our position. Bob (Baffert) was happy, so I’m happy. We got a lot out of today’s race. He’ll settle a little better for me in the Santa Anita Derby.”
CLIFFORD SISE JR., DANZING CANDY, WINNER: “I expected him to be on the lead. We didn’t want to experiment in this race. Mike (Smith) just said, ‘I’ll let him come out the first few jumps and if he’s there, he’s there. If somebody sends, he’ll sit second.
“He left much better today. He’s good now. We’ll stay for the Santa Anita Derby ($1 million, Grade I, 11/8 miles April 9). He’s three for three on this track. Why would we change now? I don’t see any reason to, but you never know. You’ve got to leave that up to the owners.”
BOB BAFFERT, MOR SPIRIT, SECOND: “He ran well. The horse that won is a pretty good horse. I wanted to run first, second or third. He’s coming on. A mile and an eighth will be more to his liking, but he got a lot out of it today. I’m happy with the way he went and we’re learning more about him. He’ll stay here for the Santa Anita Derby.”
KEITH DESORMEAUX, EXAGGERATOR, THIRD: “He ran nice and steady. They were quick the first part of the race. He was sitting chilly and relaxed. I loved the way it set up, but he didn’t finish. I would like to think he’ll move forward off of this. He might be maxing out at a mile, too. That’s what’s going through my mind right now. But we’ll stay here for the Santa Anita Derby, try them again and try and prove me wrong.”
TED ARONEY, PART-OWNER, DANZING CANDY, WINNER: “I won’t make reservations (for the Kentucky Derby May 7) until the last minute! I had Hear the Ghost back in 2013. He won the San Felipe and was the favorite going into the Santa Anita Derby. I made my reservations too early and then we didn’t run (due to a minor knee injury) and they wouldn’t give me my money back! I made my mind up that I won’t be making any reservations this year!
“I’m so excited with the way he ran today. I was disappointed after his first race but then his second and third race showed us how game he is. He gets to the lead and he’s so game. The whole thing today was not to experiment. If you have a speed horse you don’t want to experiment now. He’s got a front-running style that we didn’t want to experiment with and Mike bought into that. If we want to, we’ll leave that for later.”
NOTES: The winning owners are Ted Aroney (Halo Farms) of Carlsbad and Jim and Diane Bashor of La Jolla. The victory was worth 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Second was worth 20; third, 10; and fourth, five.