Veteran trainer Clifford Sise Jr. has been a staple on the Southern California racing scene for the better part of four decades and while he’s trained some good runners, including Grade I-winning sprinter Idiot Proof, Danzing Candy will be his first Kentucky Derby (GI) starter. Growing up in the shadow of Santa Anita Park in Arcadia fueled Sise’s desire to become a jockey and, though he learned to gallop at age 12 and rode briefly in the late ‘60s, he’d spend the rest of his career on the ground, becoming the youngest trainer in California to be licensed when he was only 20.
In the 43 years since, Sise has trained more than 4,700 starters and won nearly 800 races for more than $21 million in earnings. In addition to Idiot Proof, he was also the regular conditioner of Paying Dues, the runner-up in the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) at odds of 30-1. Paying Dues also is the only horse to have broken from the wrong post position in Breeders’ Cup history. Though he drew post seven, Paying Dues was loaded into post 12 and despite protests from jockey Pat Day, that’s the position he left from.
Sise is also known as the regular trainer for Lucky Pulpit, who was a decent racehorse but is now best known as the sire of dual classic winner and North America’s current richest thoroughbred, California Chrome. A year ago, Sise was close to having his first Derby starter with Prospect Park, who was runner-up to Dortmund in the San Felipe Stakes (GII), but after he failed to hit the board in the Santa Anita Derby (GI) and earn enough points for the Kentucky Derby, he was withdrawn from consideration from the Run for the Roses in favor of a summer/fall campaign.
This year, the Sise-trained Danzing Candy ran away to win the San Felipe and, though he was fourth in the off-track Santa Anita Derby in his final prep, four horses in the past 25 years have won the Derby off a fourth-place finish in their final start so a win wouldn’t be unheard of.