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Unified confirmed himself as a colt of high merit with a game and quick victory in the G2 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont, and the handsome dark brown colt is now unbeaten in three starts, also including the G3 Bay Shore. He is one of the latest successes for the very good stallion Candy Ride, a horse who has exceeded expectations at every turn in his life.

From his beginnings at one of the premium studs in Argentina, through his racing career, and now well into his innings at stud, Candy Ride has passed every test that a top stallion must overcome.

The initial test, however, that a colt must pass to become a prospective stallion is to show high athletic ability. And if a colt shows enough ability, even if he has an unfamiliar or unfashionable pedigree, breeders will give him some opportunity to prove his worth at getting quick racers.

Few stallions have made more of their opportunities on the racetrack and then capitalized on them at stud to a greater degree than Candy Ride. The Argentine-bred bay came north after an impressive start to his racing career in his homeland.

Unbeaten in three recognized starts in Argentina, “Candy Ride was a superstar before he went to the races,” said Carlos “Ned” Moore, who buys and sells horses around the world and breeds some in Virginia with his wife Jill. “Candy Ride was a massive talent at the country racing that goes on in Argentina. These are usually two- to three-furlong sprints, and that was the type of racing that he was participating in before they decided they would try to stretch him out at the major tracks.”

Although Candy Ride was officially unraced at 2, he had plenty of action. The exact number of these races is unknown; nobody was keeping records of them. At these impromptu meets, horse owners in Argentina will grade a length of unpaved road out in the country between farms, and they will make a day or weekend of racing over this temporary racetrack. The purses are small, but the betting can be big. The sums that change hands can sometimes be quite large, and the pressure to find a horse that prospers in these conditions is intense.

And as a strong colt with high speed and a great mind, Candy Ride was reportedly able to pull off some handsome coups for his ownership when raced over these short distances.

By the Haras Abolengo stallion Ride the Rails (by Cryptoclearance), Candy Ride was bred by Abolengo and sold to a client of theirs, Moore recalled. He said: “The new owners took Candy Ride to the interior of Argentina and proved him a champion of country racing.”

No record was taken of these races because they are officially off the books, but there were more than a couple of them. Quite a few more. Moore said, “He made himself something of a legend among the fanciers of country racing,” and in doing that, the good-looking colt showed the speed and toughness to merit a run in the big leagues. The successes of Candy Ride’s performances at these meets brought him to the major metropolitan tracks in Buenos Aires.

There, Candy Ride was unbeaten, including a pair of G1 victories (Joaquin S. de Anchorena and San Isidro). Those two major events, both over 1600 meters, were timed in 1:31.01 and 1:32.16, respectively, and each race was won by 8 lengths.

By the evidence of the times and the winning margins, Candy Ride had more than made a transition to racing effectively in the major leagues. He was the best in the country, and he was named champion miler from this brief exposure of his native ability.

Then the super-fast colt was sold to Sid and Jenny Craig and went to race in California, where he likewise was unbeaten in three starts. There, Candy Ride stretched out to win the G2 American Handicap (9 furlongs in 1:46.20) and the G1 Pacific Classic (10 furlongs in 1:59.11).

Those were his final racecourse performances.

The stallion’s performers have succeeded from the beginning. His best include champion Shared Belief (G1 Pacific Classic, Santa Anita Handicap, and Hollywood Futurity), Misremembered (G1 Santa Anita Handicap), Sidney’s Candy (G1 Santa Anita Derby), and Twirling Candy (G1 Malibu), as well as G2 winner Gun Runner, who most recently was third in the Kentucky Derby.

Unified has a step up to join them at the top level, but he has the prerequisite speed. The questions of class and versatility will be answered in time.