Triple Crown Near-Misses: Chateaugay vs. Candy Spots

The 1963 Triple Crown wasn’t filled with the drama of Affirmed/Alydar or Sunday Silence/Easy Goer, but Chateaugay and Candy Spots developed quite a rivalry. The two horses finished 1, 2 or 3 in each of the Triple Crown races. 

Chateaugay, the son of 1955 Kentucky Derby winner Swaps, wasn’t expected to do much during his 3-year-old campaign; he had won only two of five races as a 2-year-old, none of them stakes. Candy Spots, on the other hand, was unbeaten in six races, including wins in the Santa Anita and Florida derbies.

Also undefeated was No Robbery, who had won all five of his starts. Never Bend was the 2-year-old champion, having won 7 of 10 races in 1962. Chateaugay had captured the Blue Grass Stakes, but it was his only stakes win so far. He was the fifth choice among bettors behind Candy Spots, No Robbery, Never Bend and Bonjour when the field of nine went to the post for the 1963 Kentucky Derby. 

Never Bend and No Robbery went to the front to set the pace, and Candy Spots stalked them in third. Chateaugay was in sixth place and was still 10 lengths off the leader when they entered the far turn. Candy Spots ran into trouble several times, as his jockey, Bill Shoemaker, had to check him after clipping heels with No Robbery. He got pinned in the rail as well, and Shoemaker had to check his mount again to avoid running into Never Bend. He fell 3 1/2 lengths behind. Finally, No Robbery, on Candy Spots’ outside, moved into Candy Spots, forcing Shoemaker to slow down a third time.

Meanwhile, Chateaugay took advantage of the scorching pace set by Never Bend but had to go to the outside around the turn to get by the other horses. He began passing horses as the field entered the homestretch, quickly making up ground,, and overtook Never Bend with about 300 yards to the finish. He went under the wire with a 1 1/4-length victory. Candy Spots, fighting valiantly despite his jockey’s mistakes, managed to grab third, one neck behind Never Bend.

Chateaugay Short in Preakness

Five days before the Preakness, trainer James P. Conway had Chateaugay run a mile. The colt got away from the exercise rider and equaled Pimlico’s track record for a mile. “A work like this could take the edge off a horse,” Conway complained.

Despite the record-tying workout, Candy Spots was still the favorite in the Preakness, and at first, it played out similarly. Never Bend took the early lead, with Candy Spots three lengths behind in third place. Chateaugay was 8 1/2 lengths back.

Entering the homestretch, Candy Spots overtook Never Bend while Chateaugay made his patented late run at the leaders. but since Candy Spots had not run into trouble during this race, he was in command. He finished 3 1/2 lengths in front of Chateaugay. Never Bend finished third.

Backstretchers wondered if Chateaugay’s dazzling workout five days before the Preakness had tired the horse. He didn’t seem to have the same kick that he did at the end of a race, and the Preakness was shorter than the Derby.

Revenge in the Belmont

The Belmont was the rubber match between the two colts, and bettors still chose Candy Spots. Since Never Mind’s handlers decided to bypass the Belmont, the pacesetting was left up to Bonjour, who set slow fractions. Recognizing the slow pace, Shoemaker took the lead on the backstretch and continued to loaf.

Things were not looking good for Chateaugay, who needed a fast pace to come from behind. Luckily, jockey Braulio Baeza had the horse only five lengths off the lead and made his move around the turn. By the eighth pole, Chateaugay had taken the lead and finished with an easy 2 1/2-length win over Candy Spots.

Chateaugay never recaptured the form of the spring of 1963. He won only two of his last nine starts – both of them allowance races. He finished with an 11-4-2 record in 24 starts. Candy Spots, meanwhile, won the Jersey Derby, Arlington Classic and American Derby. He retired with a 12-5-1 record in 22 starts.