05/30/2013 4:55PM

Hollywood Park: Kettle Corn set for top effort in Californian

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Benoit & Associates
Kettle Corn (right) finishes second to Liaison in the Mervyn LeRoy. They are rematched in the Grade 2 Californian on Saturday.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The recent career of Kettle Corn, the 6-year-old stakes winner, has centered on Betfair Hollywood Park and Del Mar.

Kettle Corn is a synthetic track specialist, and has the record to prove it, having won 4 of 13 starts and $360,020 on such surfaces. Overall, Kettle Corn has won 7 of 21 starts and $424,111.

He can add to those totals in Saturday’s $150,000 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park.

“We save him for this time of year,” trainer John Sadler said on Thursday. “He’s a course specialist.”

Owned by Lee and Susan Searing’s CRK Stable, Kettle Corn has run in eight stakes on synthetic tracks in the last two years, never finishing worse than third. He won the Grade 3 Native Diver Handicap here in 2011, was second in the 2012 Californian and third in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup last summer.

[CALIFORNIAN STAKES: Get PPs, watch Saturday's full card live]

“He makes good checks,” Sadler said.

In three of those eight races, Kettle Corn was beaten by Game On Dude, the top older male in California in the last two years. Sadler has followed a predictable schedule with Kettle Corn over the last two winters. The horse races through December and is rested during the early part of the winter-spring meeting at Santa Anita, resuming training in time for the start of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting. Santa Anita has a dirt track.

The schedule could change next year with the closure of Hollywood Park for development, likely leading to more turf races for Kettle Corn.

For now, the focus is on synthetic stakes.

In his first start of 2013, Kettle Corn was second in the Grade 2 Mervyn LeRoy Handicap over 1 1/16 miles here on May 4, closing through the stretch to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind Liaison, who is part of the field for the Californian.

With Batti Man and Blueskiesnrainbow expected to set the pace, and more distance in the 1 1/8-mile Californian, Sadler said that Kettle Corn can produce a mild upset.

“He’s capable of winning with a good trip,” Sadler said.