03/12/2010 1:00AM

Sadler sends pair to face Caracortado


ARCADIA, Calif. - No one has been able to beat Caracortado as he purposefully has made his way up the pecking order of Southern California's Kentucky Derby contenders. So, trainer John Sadler will try to double his chances of knocking Caracortado from his perch Saturday in the Grade 2, $150,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita by sending out a two-pronged attack of Sidney's Candy and Dave in Dixie in this key prep for next month's Santa Anita Derby.

Sidney's Candy is coming off a powerful front-running win in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes last month. The San Felipe, at 1 1/16 miles, marks his first try around two turns. Dave in Dixie was a fast-finishing second behind Caracortado four weeks ago in the 1 1/16-mile Robert Lewis Stakes in only his third start. Those two are among six 3-year-olds who will try to end the storybook saga of Caracortado, who began his career in a maiden-claiming race and has carried his unheralded but likeable jockey Paul Atkinson to the verge of his first Derby starter.

"I don't like running two together," Sadler said, "but it's the best race for both horses. We want to see if Sidney's Candy can handle two turns, and we thought doing that at home was the best option. Dave in Dixie, I don't want to ship out of town with him yet.

"They complement each other, one in front, one coming from last. It'll be tough for the others. If you run with Sidney's Candy, you pay the price. Hopefully, those two will meet up at the sixteenth pole."

Likely joining them at the sixteenth pole will be Caracortado, who has the tactical speed to work out an ideal stalking trip every time. In the Lewis, which marked his fifth victory, that positional advantage enabled him to get an early jump on Dave in Dixie and score his first graded stakes win. Mike Machowsky, who trains, bred, and is a co-owner of Caracortado, said the gelding has matured since being risked for $40,000 in his debut at Fairplex in September.

"He was an awkward-looking horse at the time," Machowsky said. "From three months ago, he's changed a lot, filled out more."

Caracortado will start from the outside post in the field of seven.

American Lion was third in the Lewis after pressing the early pace. That was his first start in nearly three months, since a victory in the seven-furlong Hollywood Prevue in November. American Lion was anxious in the post parade before the Lewis, then failed to settle the first part of the race after stumbling at the start. To try and get him to concentrate on the task at hand, trainer Eoin Harty is outfitting him with blinkers for the first time.

"I think he lacks a little focus," Harty said. "He's doing super. He worked really well the other day. Hopefully, he'll run accordingly."

Trainer Todd Pletcher decided to send Interactif from Florida, where he finished second as the odds-on favorite in the Hallandale Beach Stakes on turf at Gulfstream on Feb. 7 in his lone start this year. Pletcher had been pointing Interactif to the Santa Anita Derby, but decided to move up the timetable for his first start on a synthetic surface.

"The horse is ready to run," Pletcher said. "He needs to run. And this way we'll find out where I am with him. I'm not 100 percent certain he's going to like the synthetic. Depending on what he does, he can come back in the Santa Anita Derby, the Blue Grass, the Lexington, or go back to turf. I'll know more after this weekend."

Interactif was a close third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf last fall. Before switching to turf, he ran twice on dirt, including a win against maidens in his debut at Monmouth Park.

Erbein, who defeated maidens in his fifth start last time out, and Stephen's Got Hope, who finished seventh in that maiden race after encountering traffic trouble, round out the field.