The Candy Man wins the Group Three Premier’s Cup (Trackside Photography)
For those of us old enough to remember Sammy Davis Jnr singing and dancing to ‘The Candy Man’, we also recall it’s one of the greatest (worst?) earworms of all time: “the Candy Man can, the Candy Man can, ‘cause he mixes it with love …”
Talk about sugar overload!
Well, perhaps we should get used to a revival after back-from-the-brink galloper, The Candy Man, defied life’s odds and captured Saturday’s Group Three Eva Air Premier’s Cup over 2200m at Eagle Farm.
It was the 5YO’s seventh win in a row and, while that’s commendable at any level, for The Candy Man’s connections, it’s the stuff dreams are made of.
The Candy Man had just the solitary run, as a winter 2YO, and was about to embark on a 3YO campaign when he badly shattered his jaw, requiring a nine hour operation. Nine hours! Indeed, he was on the table for close to 12 hours.
But that’s not all: The Candy Man then required further operations to have a back plate removed and another to extract a tooth … then, when recuperating, he hurt his hind leg which required – yes – another operation.
Few things test us like racehorse ownership, but fortunately trainer, Barry Baldwin, and owners, Lucky Pippos and Edgar Allen, were determined to persist and, since the now 5YO resumed last November, he produced placings at the Sunshine Coast and Ipswich, before peeling off wins at Doomben, Sunshine Coast, two more at Doomben, two at the Gold Coast and now – DESERVEDLY – his first stakes win at Eagle Farm.
“He (The Candy Man) ran quite well on debut and had a jump out at Deagon where he went to the line neck and neck with a pretty good horse up here called Havasay,” Baldwin recalls. “However, the day before he was due to have his second start, he broke his jaw.
“This horse is truly incredible. He was on the operating table for so long that a couple of the vets suggested pulling the plug, but they decided to press on. One of the surgeons was at Eagle Farm on Saturday and said full marks had to go to the anesthetist who kept him under for all that time. Miraculous really.
“After the operation The Candy Man had to learn how to eat again and then, blow me down, he ended up having all those other issues.”
Now 75 years old and himself struggling with a bung hip, Baldwin has been involved with horses since he was 15: initially as a jockey before taking up his trainers’ licence in 1965.
A leading trainer in Brisbane for decades – interrupted by a four year spell in Macau – Baldwin saddled up La Montagna to win the 2006 Group One Stradbroke Handicap, while other stable luminaries include the multiple stakes winners Baggio and Burdekin Blues.
With as many as 73 in his stable at one stage, but back to a more manageable 15, the laidback Baldwin has always had a short, albeit lofty, bucket list. 1. Win a Brisbane (and Macau) trainers’ championship. Check. 2. Win a Stradbroke. Check. 3. Have a runner in the Melbourne Cup …
“The Candy Man will run in the (Group Two) Brisbane Cup (over 2400m at Eagle Farm on 8 June) before being tipped out for a spell and brought back for the spring,” Baldwin points out. “Win or lose on Saturday week we’ll still nominate him for the Melbourne Cup.
“Whatever the horse does from here is a bonus and he’s become something of a cult horse up here in Queensland.”
Hasn’t he what! Trials and tribulations aside, the flashy grey was treated like a rock star at Eagle Farm, particularly among those with long memories of a former legend from the sunshine state.
Around the time that Sammy Davis Jnr was belting out The Candy Man, a horse by the name of Gunsynd – the Goondiwindi Grey – was belting rivals in 22 principal races, among them a Cox Plate, Toorak, Epsom, Doncaster and third in the Melbourne Cup. Tough? Gunsynd won every major ‘mile’ on the east coast and, at one stage, raced for eight consecutive weeks.
The Winx of his day, Gunsynd took headlines from the back page to the front and they even wrote songs about him.
But it wasn’t just coat colour that the pair share … The Candy Man also races in Gunsynd’s distinctive purple and white halves, courtesy of part-owner Lucky Pippos.
Originally from the Goondiwindi area, Pippos’s brother, George, owned a quarter share in Gunsynd and Lucky fondly remembers the 70s superstar.
“I wasn’t an owner (of Gunsynd) but I obviously followed his career very closely,” Pippos explains. “George passed away 15 years ago and while the colours belonged to the Gunsynd syndicate, I’ve managed to secure them and raced a few in those silks.
“I’ve lost count of the horses I’ve owned – probably around 30 or so over the years – but none have been as good as The Candy Man. He’s gone from maiden to open class in the space of one prep.”
The 17th stakes winner for Vinery Stud’s Casino Prince, The Candy Man is a full brother to Sydney stakes winner, Phrases, from a stakes placed half sister to the dam of Australian-bred Wellington Cup winner, Maygrove.
Bred by Steve and Leonie Driver from Bundaberg in Queensland, The Candy Man was originally sold for $40,000 through the Murrulla Stud draft at the 2015 Gold Coast Magic Millions National Yearling Sale.
“The Candy Man was one of the first horses bred by Steve and Leonie and he was always a lovely type … but not as lovely a type as he was on Saturday,” Murrulla Stud’s Tim Nolan quipped.
Following the National Sale, The Candy Man would then be re-offered at that year’s Gold Coast Horses In Training Sale, where he was snapped up by Baldwin for $120,000.
“Barry and I went to the (Horses In Training) sale and both of us liked the look of him, so we purchased the horse, along with good friend, Edgar Allen,” Pippos adds. “He was a big, gangly type but Barry said all along that he had ability.”
Turns out he was right.
After 60 years industry involvement, Baldwin has seen a lot of horses come and go, but clearly The Candy Man is something special.
“I don’t cry easy but when you’ve seen what this horse has gone through … well, it’s just incredible. It’s not about the glamour or the money. It’s about the love for the horse.”