11/15/2011 12:33PM

Hollywood Park: Sadler sends strong pair in optional claimer

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. – John Sadler ended the first week of the Hollywood Park meeting tied for second in the trainers’s standings, behind Bob Baffert. But Sadler has a terrific chance to leap forward Thursday, when he has runners in five of the eight races, including a strong pair of Kettle Corn and Java Man in the featured seventh race, an optional claimer at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

Both Sadler runners arrived here from other circuits and have quickly taken to their new surroundings. Kettle Corn, who came in from Chicago, owns one win in three starts since joining Sadler’s barn. Java Man, who had been based on the East Coast, won his second start for Sadler after being defeated by Kettle Corn in his first local start. They face four rivals, three of whom, like the Sadler pair, are racing at the second-level allowance condition.

Kettle Corn raced twice on Polytrack at Del Mar, winning a first-level allowance there. Most recently, he was third in a grass race at Santa Anita. This will be his first start on Cushion Track. “We bought him with synthetic in mind rather than dirt,” Sadler said. “I think he’ll love the main course here.”

Java Man had been off for more than seven months when he was soundly defeated by Kettle Corn at Del Mar, but he improved sharply in his second start to post a 26-1 upset at Santa Anita in a first-level allowance.

“He’s the reverse-Gladding,” Sadler said. “We bought Gladding because we thought he’d like synthetic. This horse looked like he’d do better on dirt.”

Baffert will try to protect his lead in the trainers’ standings with Uncle Sam, who was a distant second in the Pomona Derby at Fairplex in his last start nearly two months ago. He ran well here during the summer, finishing third in the Swaps Stakes and second in the Alydar.

“He’s doing well, but he hasn’t run in a while,” Baffert said. “He needed a little freshening. He got a little light on me.”

Uncle Sam should be forwardly placed as should Commander, the only horse in the field entered for a $62,500 claiming price. Commander broke poorly and never was a factor in a downhill turf sprint at Santa Anita in his last start, but handicappers are likely to ignore that race, being as he has finished last in both his turf starts. He should be far more effective on the main track.

Bonfire Knight heads south following two strong efforts at Golden Gate. Dynamic Host was overmatched in the Clement Hirsch in his last start. He is back in a more sensible spot.