CRK Stable’s consistent Kettle Corn, seemingly always there or
thereabouts in California stakes competition, rallied powerfully through
the stretch under Victor Espinoza to wear down 3-5 favored Paynter and
win Saturday’s Grade II $200,000 San Diego Handicap.
Kettle Corn, the 7-2 second choice in the field of six horses,
briefly dropped back to last entering the stretch, then moved between
horses to engage Paynter and steadily forged ahead to win by a
half-length in 1:41.83 for the mile and one-sixteenth over Del Mar’s
Paynter, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, stalked pacesetting longshot
Batti Man from the start, took the lead in the upper stretch but
couldn’t withstand the challenge of Kettle Corn while finishing
three-quarters of a length in front Batti Man who set the pace under
Brice Blanc. Three-year-old Chief Havoc was fourth, followed by Liaison
and Clubhouse Ride, who turned in disappointing performances.
Kettle Corn, a six-year-old son of Candy Ride trained by John Sadler,
came into the San Diego off a bang-up second-place behind handicap
division leader Game On Dude in the Hollywood Gold Cup. A year ago, he
was third to Rail Trip in the San Diego.
Kettle Corn earned $120,000 with his eighth victory in 24 starts and
now has a career bankroll of $653,111. He returned $9.20, $3.40 and
$2.60 to his backers Saturday. Paynter, running his second race of a
comeback after being near death with a variety of physical problems a
year ago, paid $2.40 and $2.10, while Batti Man returned $6 to show.
The San Diego Handicap is the major steppingstone to Del Mar’s
richest race, the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic Sunday, August 25.
In the afternoon’s supporting feature, the $200,000 Fleet Treat
Stakes for California-bred three-year-old fillies, Sweet Marini led from
start to finish under jockey Martin Garcia to score by 4 ¾ lengths in
1:22.25 for the seven furlongs over the main track.
Qiaona, a 14-1 longshot, was second, with 15-1 Warren’s Veneda edging
out 7-10 favorite Doinghardtimeagain for third. The last-named prompted
the pace of the winner, but faltered in the stretch to be well-beaten.
Of $506,588 in the show pool on the Fleet Treat, $440,895 was wagered
on Doinghardtimeagain to finish third.
Sweet Marini, a daughter of Marino Marini owned by Kaleem Shah and
trained by Bob Bafffert, went postward a solid second choice at 6-5 and
paid $4.60 while earning $117,200 with her third triumph in five starts.
Edwin Maldonado, who tied for the riding title with Bejarano at
Betfair Hollywood Park, enjoyed his most productive afternoon of the
meeting, booting in three winners – Hey Cowboy at $24.80 in the first,
Splendiferous Moon at $12.40 in the fifth and Corsa di Cavalli at $14 in