05/30/2008 12:00AM

Ex-claimers to battle in Gallant Man


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Traditions are crumbling in California, where synthetic surfaces have forced handicappers to rethink the time-honored element of class. Today's claimer is tomorrow's graded stakes winner.

Don't believe it? Trainers Mike Mitchell and John Sadler are proving it. Recent claims by Mitchell that subsequently won or placed in graded stakes on synthetic include Church Service (claimed for $50,000), Big Booster ($62,500), and Sun Boat ($50,000).

Sadler recently claimed Dearest Trickski and Zappa for $32,000 each, and both became graded stakes winners on synthetic.

On Sunday at Hollywood Park, former claimers trained by Mitchell and Sadler will further muddle class analysis when they test their Cushion Track endurance by lumbering 1 5/8 miles in the $100,000 Gallant Man Handicap. Six of the seven starters once raced for a tag.

Mitchell trains Gallant Man favorite Big Booster, and he summarized the class differences between surfaces: "On turf, you're running against the best of the best. On [synthetic surfaces], you might not get the quality."

Big Booster won the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano last out on grass, but if he makes it to the Breeders' Cup this fall, it will be in the new $500,000 Dirt Marathon, a 1 1/2-mile race on the synthetic track at Santa Anita.

Big Booster, who has placed in two Grade 1 races on synthetic, is the 119-pound topweight Sunday against the Sadler-trained entry of Tissy Fit and Super Strut, Keeneland shipper Jade's Revenge, Top This and That, Victorian Prince, and Marsh Side.

Super Strut was claimed by Sadler last time despite a 17-race losing streak on grass. The express purpose was to change surfaces.

"Some of these turf horses, a la Tissy Fit and Big Booster, improve on synthetic," Sadler said.

Tissy Fit switched from grass to Cushion Track last time in his first start since being claimed by Sadler, winning the 1 1/4-mile allowance by 1 1/4 lengths. "He's a two-mile horse, and this is a specialty race," Sadler said, referring to Tissy Fit in the Gallant Man.

Jade's Revenge last out won 1 5/8-mile race on the main track at Keeneland, and his 3 3/4-length victory looks good on paper. But apparently he beat a bad field. Four of the six that finished behind Jade's Revenge have since returned to run, and none so much as hit the board. Graham Motion trains Jade's Revenge.

Marsh Side is the only Gallant Man starter that has not raced for a tag.