07/28/2011 2:12PM

Del Mar: Blinkers help Kevlar Kid get revved up for San Diego

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Benoit & Associates
Kevlar Kid, much improved since adding blinkers, will try to transfer his good form at Hollywood Park to the main track at Del Mar for the San Diego Handicap.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Blinkers have changed Kevlar Kid, who makes his stakes debut in Saturday’s $200,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar.

Before adding the basic piece of equipment, Kevlar Kid had 1 win in 6 starts, and three losses as a favorite. When blinkers were added in the spring, Kevlar Kid won two consecutive optional claimers over 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park to earn a spot in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap, run over the same distance.

A 4-year-old gelding owned by Warren Williamson and trained by Carla Gaines, Kevlar Kid will be easy to follow in the San Diego. He is expected to set the pace under jockey Chantal Sutherland from the inside post in a field of eight.

BREEDERS’ CUP CHALLENGE: Racing schedule, replays, and past winners >>

“He’s a free-running horse and I think Chantal fits him well,” Gaines said. “He always runs big races.”

Gaines went to blinkers after Kevlar Kid finished second to First Dude in an allowance race at Santa Anita in April. First Dude later won two stakes, including the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup before he was retired because of a tendon injury.

“When First Dude ran by him at Santa Anita, he watched the horse go by him and then took off again,” Gaines said.

Nothing has passed Kevlar Kid since. He won on May 7 by two lengths and on June 17 by 2 1/4 lengths, always leading.

Gaines is concerned about the surface switch, from Hollywood Park’s Cushion track synthetic surface to Del Mar’s Polytrack.

“Hollywood is so different than this,” she said. “He’s never run on this.”

The San Diego Handicap is not only Kevlar Kid’s stakes debut, but an opportunity to secure a fees-paid berth to the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs in November through the Breeders’ Cup Challenge program.

That prize makes the San Diego an intriguing opportunity for the stalkers and closers who can threaten Kevlar Kid in the stretch, notably the stakes winners Aggie Engineer, Golden Itiz, and Uh Oh Bango, along with Spurrier, who has placed in several stakes.

Kevlar Kid and Golden Itiz are the runners in Del Mar’s weekly head-to-head wager, a new bet offered this year.

Aggie Engineer won two graded stakes last winter but is winless in his last three starts, the most recent of which was a third in the Grade 2 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park on June 4.

Golden Itiz and Uh Oh Bango will race from just off the pace. Golden Itiz won an allowance race over seven furlongs at Hollywood Park on July 10 and the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap there in 2010. The San Diego will be his first start at Del Mar.

“It’s a love it or hate it track,” Ellis said of Del Mar.

“I was surprised he could beat those horses going seven-eighths. His best races have been around two turns. It’s a tribute to his talent that he could do that.”

Uh Oh Bango won the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap over 1 1/16 miles at Golden Gate Fields on May 30 and returns to two turns after a fourth in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap for sprinters earlier this month.

“If we can get an honest pace, we can finish better,” trainer Kory Owens said.