Meteore was in last place coming off the far turn with seemingly nowhere to go. But once jockey Alex Solis found room with a sweeping four-wide move it was clear sailing from there, as the son of Pulpit picked up all eight of his rivals en route to a 1 1/2-length victory in the $150,000 La Jolla Handicap (gr. IIT) (VIDEO) Aug. 15 on the Del Mar turf course.
Making his graded stakes debut while going off as the 6-1 fourth choice, Meteore posted his third win in his last four starts. The chestnut colt has now gone from maiden to graded stakes winner in a little more than four months for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella.
Meteore trailed throughout the backstretch in the 1 1/16-mile La Jolla, waiting patiently while stablemate New Bay clicked off an opening quarter of :23.05 and then dueled with I'll Show Them and Herr Mozart through a half-mile in :46.92 and three-quarters in 1:10.03.
New Bay and I’ll Show Them were the first to the quarter-pole, but a rallying Rendezvous easily took over approaching the top of the stretch with his three-wide move. Rendezvous, with Joel Rosario aboard, led until deep stretch, but was no match for Meteore, who came roaring like a freight train from the middle of the racetrack.
Meteore, a 3-year-old homebred of Wertheimer and Frere, hit the wire in 1:40.82 on a ‘firm’ turf course. Rendezvous was second, 1 3/4 lengths in front of Gretsky. Previously undefeated I’ll Show Them, the 5-2 favorite, was fourth.
"Richard told me he wanted to take him back, drop over and make one late run. It worked well," Solis said. "I knew they were going along at a good clip up front, so I felt comfortable back there. I saw Garrett's horse (Garrett Gomez on Gretsky) get in trouble near the five-sixteenths (pole), and I was able to come out and go around. It worked out perfectly. It was a good race for him."
Meteore broke his maiden in his sixth try April 9 at Santa Anita, then followed up two months later with an optional claiming score on the Hollywood Park lawn. Last out, in Del Mar’s opening day Oceanside Stakes on July 22, Meteore was fifth after tiring in the stretch.
Bred in Kentucky and out of the Twining mare Meteor Miracle, Meteore is now 3-0-2 from nine starts with earnings of $163,916.
"We thought he was too close to the pace in the Oceanside and so we wanted to take farther back today," Mandella said. "I guess it worked. He came out of that race with a bruised foot, also, and I wasn't sure we were going to be able to run in this race. We took his shoes off and poulticed the foot for a while, and he responded real quickly. He sort of pushed us to run here."
Mandella said the $350,000 Del Mar Derby (gr. IIT) on Sept. 6 could be next for Meteore.
The winner paid $14, $6.60, and $4.40. The $1 exacta (7-2) returned $27.90, and the $1 trifecta (7-2-4) was $100.20.