Meteor Storm, the morning line favorite in a field of 12 entered for Saturday's $750,000 United Nations (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park, must overcome the extreme outside post.
"Post 12 ... oooooh!," said trainer Wally Dollase Friday morning as he watched Meteor Storm gallop around the main track. "We're really going to need the right trip from there. We'll lose ground on the first turn, that's for sure."
Meteor Storm, a 5-year-old English-bred by Bigstone, has won his last three in a row, including the Manhattan Handicap (gr. IT) at Belmont last out on June 5.
"He runs the European way," Dollase said. "He'll just gallop along and then the last quarter he'll take off like a rocket."
Jose Valdivia Jr., who has ridden Meteor Storm the last four starts, will have some serious piloting to do in the U.N. The race starts on the backstretch, and the run to the first turn is short. The horse can expect to have some traffic problems the last three-eighths.
Dollase bought Meteor Storm from a Tattersalls sale of racing age horses two years ago in England. The horse broke his maiden in France before being sold.
Dollase took his time developing the colt, running him through conditions and at the same time stretching him out. Meteor Storm won his U.S. debut at one mile in March of 2003. This year he has taken the San Juan Capistrano (gr. IIT), the longest turf stakes in America at about 1 3/4 miles, the San Luis Rey (gr. IIT) at 12 furlongs, and the 1 1/4-mile Manhattan.
"His dam (Hunt the Sun, by Rainbow Quest) has produced three other winners," Dollase said, "and they're all distance horses. That's why we were so patient about bringing him along. We knew the longer he ran, the better he'd be."
Safely tucked in Post 8 is one of the local hopes for the U.N., Runnin Horse Farms' Megantic. The 6-year-old by Theatrical
won the Battlefield Stakes on the Monmouth grass last out for trainer Norman Pointer, and Julian Pimentel will be back aboard Saturday.
"It's going to be a rider's race, that's for sure," Pointer said. "I'm not going to give the jock any instructions except to take it as it comes. We know he can get the distance. He's going to make one big run because that's his game.
"My horse is good right now, moving forward, and you have to take a shot when you can. I know he'll show up tomorrow."
Megantic would be a big story (and a big price) if he won the U.N. Pointer claimed the horse for $62,500 in March of 2003 when Bill Mott ran Megantic for a tag at Gulfstream Park. The Kentucky-bred won for $50,000 claiming at Gulfstream this winter, his first score since the claim, and then ran third in the Pan American and fourth in the Dixie (both gr. IIT), where he encountered a world of trouble.
Pointer has a history of springing upsets with sons of Theatrical. In 2000, he saddled Rize to take the Iselin Handicap (gr. IIT) as the second longest shot in the field.
Anstu Stable's Balto Star figures to be the main pace figure with Jose Valez Jr. gunning from the gate. In a similar scenario last year, the duo was able to slow the pace down and pull off a major upset at odds of 37-1 for trainer Todd Petcher.$750,000 United Nations (gr. IT), 3 & up, 1 3/8 mile on turf
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. In Hand (KY), 118, Stewart Elliott
2. Request for Parole (KY), 118, Edgar S. Prado
3. Balto Star (KY), 118, Jose A. Velez, Jr.
4. Nothing to Lose (KY), 118, Richard Migliore
5. Bowman Mill (KY), 118, Joe Bravo
6. Hard Buck (BRZ), 122, Brice Blanc
7. Mr O'Brien (IRE), 120, Ramon A. Dominguez
8. Megantic (KY), 118, Julian Pimentel
9. Better Talk Now (KY), 118, Eibar Coa
10. Catechol (NJ), 118, Michael C. Baze
11. Final Prophecy (FL), 118, Edwin L. King, Jr.
12. Meteor Storm (GB), 122, Jose Valdivia, Jr.