07/01/2002 11:00PM

Experience means little in American


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Logic supersedes patriotism. Too bad, because no horse has a more fitting name for the American Handicap, to be run on the Fourth of July, than National Anthem.

Trouble is, nine others entered the 1 1/8-mile turf race at Hollywood Park, and National Anthem will be relegated to longshot status. The Grade 2, $150,000 American goes as race 9 on a 10-race card that includes the Grade 3 Landaluce for 2-year-old fillies (race 6).

While venerable 9-year-old Native Desert is in the field, the American figures to be won by one of the least-experienced members of the field - Kappa King, who has won 4 of 9, or The Tin Man (4 of 8).

Kappa King arrived at trainer Bobby Frankel's barn at the start of the year, but his United States campaign was delayed. "He had little problems, and just couldn't go on," Frankel said. "He had to go through the routine."

For Frankel, that means time. Kappa King was a fresh horse when he made his U.S. debut May 26 in three-other-than allowance, which he won by a half-length. Typically, a conditioned allowance does not lead directly to a Grade 2, but this year's American came up weak, and Kappa King's victory was more impressive than the half-length margin.

"He beat a nice horse [The Price Spirit], and won easier than it looks," Frankel said. "When he made the lead, he waited until that other horse came to him."

Kent Desormeaux rode Kappa King last time, and will ride him again Thursday.

The Tin Man might have been the favorite in the American, but for a listless ninth last out in the Shoemaker Mile. That race followed six sharp performances, so trainer Richard Mandella is willing to excuse one subpar effort.

"He came out a little stiff all over, but nothing became of it," Mandella said. "He's bounced back in pretty good shape. I'm hoping we see him back where he was before."

If he is back, The Tin Man would be a legitimate winner of the American. The other time he ran in a graded stakes, he missed by only a length to Suances and Decarchy in the Grade 2 San Francisco Mile.

Native Desert has won 21 of 65 and earned $1.7 million, more than the rest of the likely starters combined. Grade 1 winner Super Quercus entered the American, but he ran on Sunday and will scratch.

Other starters include Thady Quill, Amicable, Nicobar, and Devine Wind.

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