Meteor Storm, the 2004 Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) winner at Belmont Park, worked five furlongs over the Saratoga main track Monday morning in 1:00 2/5, handily, under jockey Javier Castellano.The British-bred is scheduled to make his Saratoga debut in Saturday's Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap (gr. IT) for trainer Wally Dollase. Castellano will ride the son of Bigstone in Saratoga's marquee turf race.
"Perfect," said Dollase after watching the six-year-old gallop out. "He's not even blowing. He's got an amazing respiratory system and a good mind; he's got a tremendous heart and lungs. He does what he has to do, and you can't beat that in a route horse. A lot of them want to go too fast or they aren't classy enough. He'll run all day against the best."
Meteor Storm is winless in four starts this year. In late March, he finished second in Santa Anita's grade II San Luis Rey Handicap. On Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs, he was second best in the grade I Turf Classic. Meteor Storm enters the Sword Dancer off a seventh-place finish in the Manhattan, a race in which he lost both front shoes and endured an extremely wide trip.
"That's never happened to one of my horses before," Dollase said. "Both front shoes came off. Obviously, he didn't have the traction to get a hold of the track the last part of the race. Still, he was beaten less than four lengths, so it wasn't all that bad of an effort."Dollase says Meteor Storm sightings will begin to dwindle after Saturday's Sword Dancer.
"I'd like to run him three more times then retire him," said Dollase, the only person to train a Travers (gr. I) winner (Deputy Commander, 1997) and that Travers winner's son (Ten Most Wanted, 2003). If all goes according to plan, Meteor Storm would likely end his career in the John Deere Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Belmont Park on Oct. 29.
Another likely Sword Dancer starter, Relaxed Gesture, also worked Monday. Relaxed Gesture breezed a half mile over the training turf course in :47 for trainer Christophe Clement.Also Monday morning, the New York Racing Association's Racing Office released its alternate list for the Sword Dancer. Breeders' Cup Turf and defending Sword Dancer champion Better Talk Now heads the alternate list, with as many as nine expected to run in the race.
Better Talk Now, who is also pre-entered for Saturday's Arlington Million (gr. IT), won the United Nations Handicap (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park last month. Other candidates for the race include Request for Parole, Silverfoot, King's Drama and his stablemate Vangelis, and multiple stakes winner Rochester.