07/25/2012 4:18PM

Del Mar: Kettle Corn catches a break in San Diego Handicap

Shigeki Kikkawa
Kettle Corn has performed well on Del Mar's Polytrack surface.

DEL MAR, Calif.- For at least one major stakes in Southern California this summer, Kettle Corn does not have to chase Game On Dude in Saturday’s $200,000 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar.

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In the Grade 2 Californian Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park on June 2, Kettle Corn was second to Game On Dude. In the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup on July 7, he was third behind Game On Dude and Richard’s Kid.

“He didn’t have an excuse at Hollywood, other than being second or third behind maybe the very best,” trainer John Sadler said.

Owned by Lee and Susan Searing, Kettle Corn can win his first stakes in the Grade 2 San Diego since the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park last December.

At the least, Sadler is confident that Kettle Corn is suited to Del Mar’s Polytrack surface, where he was fourth and first in allowance races last summer.

“We think this is his best surface,” Sadler said.

Sadler’s confidence soared last weekend, when Kettle Corn worked six furlongs. Officially, Kettle Corn was timed in 1:12.20. Sadler timed him slightly faster, in 1:11.80.

“He was very sharp in the work,” Sadler said.

A closer, Kettle Corn will be ridden by Garrett Gomez in the San Diego.

The race offers an automatic berth to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 3, provided the winner is nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program.

Kettle Corn will race as a stalker, and will be a leading contender.

The expected field of seven includes defending champion Tres Borrachos, and two runners trained by Bob Baffert – Take Control and Prayer for Relief.

Prayer for Relief was third in the Californian.

Night Wind puts it together

It has taken longer than expected for Night Wind to get the hang of things, but his trainer, John Sadler, thinks he’s headed in the right direction now and could score his third straight victory in the third race on Friday, a first-level California-bred allowance at five furlongs on turf.

“When he won the starter race last time, it was the first time he looked like he knew what he was doing,” Sadler said. “He’s got beautiful action for grass. I thought a lot of him early on. If he can put together another one like he did last time, he’ll be fine.”

Night Wind lost his first two starts, against maidens, before dipping into a maiden-claimer, which he won. Friday’s race will be his first on turf.

Castletown a changed horse

Trainer Tim Yakteen credits a switch to blinkers, and a decision to geld Castletown, as reasons for the sharp improvement shown by the 4-year-old when romping against maidens last Sunday.

“He needed to be gelded,” Yakteen said of the son of Orientate, a homebred of Ernie Moody’s Mercedes Stable. “He wasn’t staying focused in his races.”

In his first start, Castletown ducked in and lost jockey Alonzo Quinonez Feb. 9 at Santa Anita.

“His first race was an indication he didn’t have racing on his mind,” Yakteen said.

After two more losses at Betfair Hollywood Park, Castletown was gelded.

“I think we’ve got him going in the right direction now. Hopefully we can keep him going that way,” Yakteen said.

– additional reporting by Jay Privman