NATIVE DIVER HANDICAP | PURSE: $100,000 | GRADE 3 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | 1 1/8 MILES
C R K Stable's Kettle Corn was content to run in fourth while saving ground in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 Native Diver Handicap at Hollywood Park, then put in a game rally up the rail to deny 8-5 favorite Tres Borrachos by a half-length on the wire. Garrett Gomez worked out the winning trip aboard the John Sadler charge, who finished nine furlongs on the Cushion Track in 1:49.
Tres Borrachos moved up to take command when the gates opened, briefly dueling with Tweebster before asserting his authority through splits of :23 2/5, :47 1/5 and 1:11 2/5. Tweebster settled in behind the rail-skimming leader with Massone running on the outside of Kettle Corn. Tres Borrachos came out a bit leaving the turn, leaving the way clear for Gomez to send Kettle Corn, but the gap quickly narrowed as the pacesetter acknowledged the challenge.
Kettle Corn had just a little too much for Tres Borrachos on this day, getting the best of his rival as the 8-1 fourth pick. The bay son of Candy Ride paid $19, $7.40 and $3.40 for capturing his stakes bow.
"I tried to put him a little closer today because there wasn't a whole lot of speed," Gomez explained his strategy. "The horses in front were able to back it up a little bit and I was just trying to get him adapted to the situation. I lost him a little at the three-eighths when they quickened. I just had to wait on him and give him a little confidence. When I pointed him to the rail he was very game. In fact, he liked being down there. He just pinned his ears and went on with it."
Tres Borrachos entered this contest off a nice third-place run in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and was 2 1/4 lengths clear of Tweebster on the wire. Massone finished another half-length back in fourth, with Eldaafer, Summer Movie and Rescue Squad completing the order under the wire.
"I thought I was in a good spot and he was traveling really nice," said jockey Joel Rosario, who was aboard Tres Borrachos. "Turning for home I thought I had a lot of horse left. I have to give a lot of credit to my horse. He ran a big race in the Breeders' Cup and he gave me everything he had today. It was a tough decision [to take off Kettle Corn], but I still think I made the right choice. He just got beat, but that's racing."
Kettle Corn began his career under the tutelage of trainer George Leonard. Following a second against allowance rivals on the synthetic Polytrack at Arlington Park in June, the four-year-old showed up in Sadler's barn at Del Mar. He ran fourth in his California debut then captured an optional claimer at Del Mar by 3 1/4 lengths. The bay tried turf for the first time at Santa Anita next out, finishing third on that occasion, before returning to the winner's circle last out at Hollywood. This win boosted his earnings to $171,891 and his scorecard now reads 10-6-1-1.
"We got him for synthetic at Del Mar," Sadler said. "He had very ordinary form on dirt and the minute he went to Arlington, he ran really well. We thought the pace might be a little bit slow today, but he was strong on numbers and might have even had the best figure.
"We really got him for Dubai, because that's synthetic over there. They have a mile race for him over there [Group 2 Godolphin Mile]. We might run him once more and then go to Dubai [in March]."
Kettle Corn, bred in Kentucky by Jim Plemmons, is out of the winning Lil E. Tee mare Somethingbeautiful, who is herself a daughter of Group 2 victress Bubali.