06/18/2009 12:00AM

Hard to gauge Get Funky's current form

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The richest race Thursday at Hollywood Park is also the toughest for bettors chasing a $125,416 pick six carryover, and though Get Funky won the Robert Kerlan Memorial Handicap one year ago, his murky form makes him uncertain to repeat in the $70,000, six-furlong turf race.

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John Sadler trains Get Funky, whose fourth-place comeback suggested he is not the same horse that won three turf-sprint stakes last year. Assistant trainer Larry Benavidez disagrees.

"He is the same horse," said Benavidez, who believes circumstances prevented Get Funky from a peak effort May 21 when he was off the board as an odds-on favorite.

"He was off five months, and they went 21-and-2," Benavidez said. "When they blast off like that going five furlongs, he's at a disadvantage. He's come back to train well, and he's not the type to put in two clunkers in a row. He's got too much try in him."

Get Funky has won 7 of 19 races and $630,923. His dull comeback came on the heels of two disappointing races to end his 2008 campaign. At age 6, Get Funky may have lost a step. In an effort to shake things up, Garrett Gomez replaces Jose Valdivia.

If the current form of Get Funky is problematical, so is the current class of Cherokee Heaven, whose sharp comeback victory May 22 was at the expense of a modest second-level allowance field.

"These horses are a little more legitimate than the ones the other day," trainer Marty Jones said. "He'll have to run at least as well, or better, to win this."

Cherokee Heaven was away 11 months when he returned in a six-furlong sprint. Seven lengths off the pace at the quarter pole, he exploded late and won by two.

The Kerlan is race 7 on an eight-race card and includes 10-for-27 stakes winner Delta Storm, back from a six-month layoff; front-runner Backbackbackgone, a 3-year-old who won the restricted Harry Henson Stakes one start back, and stakes winner Sky Cape.

The allowance-caliber Hewitts will appreciate a return to firm turf.