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Kettle Corn (outside) swept past fan favorite Paynter en route to victory in the San Diego Handicap on Saturday at Del Mar. Photo by Benoit & Associates

By Jack Shinar

Kettle Corn came from off the pace to win the $200,000 San Diego Handicap, spoiling the return of Paynter to graded stakes competition July 27 at Del Mar.

With Victor Espinoza aboard, Kettle Corn rallied three wide in the stretch to win by half a length over Paynter, who was making his second start since returning from a life-threatening battle last year with colitis and other maladies.

Second, a length behind Game On Dude in the Hollywood Gold Cup three weeks ago, Kettle Corn was at the top of his form to claim the San Diego, a major steppingstone to the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic Aug. 25.

John Sadler trains Kettle Corn for Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stables. The 6-year-old son of Candy Ride has had one prior graded stakes victory, taking the Native Diver Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park in December 2011.

Out of the winning Lil E. Tee mare Somethingbeautiful, Kettle Corn was bred in Kentucky by Jim Plemmons.

Final time for the 1 1/16-mile San Diego was a sharp 1:41.83 over the Polytrack.

Paynter, last year's Haskell Invitational after he missed winning the Belmont Stakes  by a neck, was hardly disgraced in defeat. Pressing pacesetter Batti Man through solid fractions, he was put to a long drive by jockey Rafael Bejarano to get the lead near the furlong mark and could not quite hold on against a fitter opponent.

He went off the 3-5 favorite in the field of six, with Kettle Corn second choice at 7-2.

Batti Man, who held on for third under Brice Blanc, was keen to get the early advantage and Paynter fell into the second spot while also pulling early. Swap Stakes winner Chief Havoc, the only 3-year-old in the field, race third on the outside as Kettle Corn fell dropped to the back of the field from his rail post.

Kettle Corn was able to save ground into the final turn as Batti Man reeled off fractions of :23.41, :47.28, and 1:11.24 and led Paynter by about one length into the stretch. Paynter battled gamely to get the lead from Batti Man near mid-stretch, while Kettle Corn, angled off the inside after progressing through the turn, was charging home.

Third in last year's San Diego a length behind Rail Trip, Kettle Corn proved best in the final strides this time under left-handed urging from Espinoza. Paynter outfought the Argentina-bred Batti Man for second by three-quarters of a length. Chief Havoc was fourth, followed by Liaison and Clubhouse Ride.

Kettle Corn, who carried 118 pounds, improved his record to 8-5-5 in 24 start with earnings of $653,111. Known as a runner that usually gets a piece, the bay horse snapped a four-race losing streak dating back to an allowance win on the turf at Hollywood Park Nov. 8.

He paid $9.20, $3.40, and $2.60, keying a $19.20 exacta with Paynter, the 122-pound highweight returning $2.40 and $2.10. Batti Man, sent off at odds of 34-1, paid $6 to show.

For an Equibase chart, click here.


San Diego -Inside -Benoit

Photo by Benoit & Associates




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