Veteran stakes performer Meteor Storm returns to Hollywood Park for the first time in three years on Saturday when he could become the oldest horse to win the prestigious Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) since the great John Henry won the race in 1983 at the age of 8.
A 7-year-old bay horse, Meteor Storm won an allowance race at Hollywood in the fall of 2003. He is now a multiple graded stakes winner with earnings of more than $1.4 million. His biggest victory came in the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont Park 2 1/2 years ago. He won the William L. McKnight Handicap (gr. IIT) last December at Calder, but had a bone chip removed from an ankle after that effort and was sidelined until September.
Meteor Storm will break from the two post with Victor Espinoza in the eight-horse field. Each horse is assigned 126 pounds. The opposition includes the multiple grade II winner T.H. Approval, who ran eighth in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs Nov. 4.
Wally Dollase, who won the 1 ½-mile Turf Cup in 1990 with champion Itsallgreektome and in 1998 with Lazy Lode, trains Meteor Storm. Meteor Storm returned to the races with a fourth in the one-mile Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) Sept. 30, then finished fifth in the Canadian International (Can-I) Oct. 22.
"The Kelso was too short for him, and the turf was too soft for him at Woodbine," Dollase said. "A mile-and-a-half is his best distance – the farther, the better. He has been training good, and he should run a good race."
Winner of the Sunset Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) over Hollywood Park's Lakeside Turf Course in July, T.H. Approval also captured the last two runnings of the San Juan Capistrano Handicap (gr. IIT) -- a race Meteor Storm won before heading east in 2004.
T.H. Approval, a 5-year-old horse trained by Eduardo Inda, enters the Turf Cup with seven wins in 27 starts for earnings of $863,708.
Runaway Dancer won the 2005 Jim Murray Memorial Handicap (gr. IIIT) at 1 ½ miles on the Hollywood Park turf.
Other runners include Symphony Sid, who posted a front-running victory in the Carleton F. Burke Handicap (gr. IIIT) three starts after being claimed for $50,000 by Mike Mitchell, and Cosmonaut, winner of the Arlington Handicap (gr. IIIT) in July. Artiste Royal has been in the money in five of six 2006 starts and was second in the Burke.
$250,000 Hollywood Turf Cup Stakes (gr. IT, Race 9, 4:35 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/2 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey
1. Artiste Royal (IRE), Corey Nakatani
2. Meteor Storm (GB), Victor Espinoza
3. Cosmonaut (KY), Julien Leparoux
4. Symphony Sid (KY), Michael Baze
5. T. H. Approval (KY), Alex Solis
6. Mighty Mysterious (KY), Danny Sorenson
7. Boboman (KY), Garrett Gomez
8. Runaway Dancer (KY), Aaron Gryder
Each assigned 126 pounds.