09/30/2005 12:00AM

California transplants rematched


Following three top-level stakes last weekend, capped by the Hawthorne Gold Cup, the next stakes race at Hawthorne is not scheduled until Oct. 15. With allowances like the eighth race on Sunday filling race cards, the absence of stakes might not be badly missed.

Sunday's eighth race, a $32,000, second-level allowance, drew a full field of 12, including two horses, Kirkendahl and Wise Diplomat, who began their careers in Southern California. The six-furlong race runs through them.

Kirkendahl, third in the Grade 2 San Vincente early this year, is the more established of the two, but Wise Diplomat looms the more likely winner. A 3-year-old son of Line in the Sand, Wise Diplomat comes off a runner-up finish at Arlington Park in a comparable allowance, a race in which he was beaten a head after surging to a two-length lead in midstretch.

Like Kirkendahl, he is stakes-placed, having run second in the King Knocker Stakes at Fairmount Park in early August. Although that was a quality effort, most of his better races have come in the Chicago area.

Besides his narrow defeat at Arlington on Aug. 31, Wise Diplomat was a close fourth in another two-other-than allowance there, as well as a dominant winner of an entry-level level allowance. Those races - and his runner-up finish at Fairmount - came under trainer Wayne Catalano for owners Turf Express and Darrell and Evelyn Yates.

That ownership team - which also owns graded stakes winner Injustice, among others - purchased Wise Diplomat privately this spring after a highly rated race in Southern California.

Jerry La Sala has a return mount. On Catalano-trained horses in 2004-2005, he is 7 for 17, a winning rate of 41 percent.

Kirkendahl, by contrast, comes off a poor effort at Arlington. Returning from a 199-day layoff Aug. 31 after his third-place finish in the San Vincente, he hit the brakes after chasing the pace, finishing eighth, beaten 12 3/4 lengths.

He needs a return to his peak form if he is to challenge Wise Diplomat, who finished more than 12 1/2 lengths in front of him in that Aug. 31 contest. A series of sharp works suggest a better race is on tap. Perry Compton rides for trainer Kelly Von Hemel.