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Sweeter Than ‘Candy’

Published: February 25, 2016 4:03 pm ET

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“I guess I’m just counting my lucky stars for what I have right now. I don’t have anything in the making, except for what is going to happen next week. We’ll just try to keep him as good as we can for every week. He’s been the thrill of a lifetime.”

‘Candy’ is Jody Riedel’s nickname for her seven-year-old male trotter, Can Do.

And she says the horse can do.

Riedel claimed the gelding for $30,000 last September and she has watched Can Do go from winning in the claiming ranks at Yonkers Raceway to twice winning the Open Handicap at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

“He’s been a Cinderella story,” Riedel said, adding with a laugh, “and I got to be Cinderella.”

Can Do has raced 19 times for Riedel, who owns and trains the trotter, and posted five wins and a total of 10 on-the-board finishes on his way to $97,500 in purses. He will be back in the Open Handicap at the Meadowlands on Friday. Can Do will start from Post 7 in the eight-horse field and Anthony Napolitano will be doing the driving. The duo has been gauged at odds of 9-2 on the morning line.

A son of Cantab Hall-Meadowbranch Queen, Can Do has won 31 of 121 lifetime races and earned $368,446.

Can Do was a newcomer to Yonkers when Riedel claimed the horse in his first start at ‘The Hilltop.’ Can Do had previously raced in Delaware, where he was trained and driven by Victor Kirby.

“I was worried that I was giving 30 (thousand dollars) for a 20 (thousand-dollar horse), because he had shown a bunch of 20-claimers prior, but he was a new horse at Yonkers and I took a shot,” Riedel said. “I watched replays of him. Even though he was always a little bumpy on the half (half-mile track), he still went forward. He showed that he had so much heart. I can’t say enough good things; I’ve just been lucky to have him. He’s gotten better and better every week.”

When Riedel got Can Do, she also was just beginning to work with older male trotter Bourbon Bay for driver/lessee John Cummings Jr. In his third start with Riedel, Bourbon Bay trotted a world record 1:53 mile at Saratoga. He made two more starts for Riedel before being sold and moved to another trainer.

“I was heartbroken when the owners sold him because I thought I’d never have another horse like him,” said Riedel, who trains an eight-horse stable in upstate New York and has won 254 races in her career. “It was understandable because they got good money, but I thought he was the horse of a lifetime.

“It was funny because (Bourbon Bay) and Can Do were in stalls right next to each other. And from there on, it seems like Can Do took his place. He was like, don’t worry about losing him, you have me. And now they’re racing against each other. It’s funny how things work out. He’s been a blessing.”

Prior to racing this year at the Meadowlands, Can Do had made only three starts on a mile-sized oval in his career. He made three starts at Indiana Downs as a three-year-old in 2012.

“I think he’s a lot better gaited on the big track,” Riedel said. “Even though they go faster miles, I think not having to struggle around the turns on the half has definitely helped him. He has good gate speed for wherever he is, a big track or a small track, and that’s what has really helped him on a half because he can leave pretty good and sit in a good spot.”

Can Do had six different drivers at Yonkers last season, but has been driven this year only by Napolitano.

“Anthony does a great job with him,” Riedel said. “He understands him. They go together like mashed potatoes and gravy.”

Riedel says Can Do has the personality of “a clown,” but on the track he always wants to pass horses. Even if he is out only for a morning jog.

“A horse could be 20 lengths ahead of him and you could be the only two horses on the track, but Can Do’s head will come up and he’s got to go by him,” Riedel said. “Then he’ll relax again. He just has such desire.

“He’s got such personality. He loves you paying attention to him, he loves playing in his water, he’s always looking for cookies and carrots. He’s got such a good temperament. In the barn, a kid could take care of him. He’s just kind and loving.”

Riedel has no plans for Can Do other than trying to stay sharp and competing in the Opens. The two have already enjoyed special moments and made memories.

“When he won the Open at the Meadowlands for the first time, I got in the van to go to the winner’s circle and I looked out the window and I saw Anthony turning the horse next to us to go back,” Riedel said. “I started to cry. I couldn’t believe I won the Open at the Meadowlands. That in itself was a dream come true.

“I guess I’m just counting my lucky stars for what I have right now. I don’t have anything in the making, except for what is going to happen next week. We’ll just try to keep him as good as we can for every week. He’s been the thrill of a lifetime.”


This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.


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