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Arlington Park Road to the Million (6/16/04)

Contact: Graham Ross


Meteor Storm, toast of the Manhattan Handicap on Belmont Stakes Day, has quickly risen to the top among the grass favoring stars campaigned in the United States.

What's the next major goal? The Grade I Arlington Million in Chicago on Aug. 14 at Arlington Park, with one prep race between now and then.

Meteor Storm, a British-bred bay 5-year-old, registered a convincing length and a quarter victory in the Manhattan 'Cap, a Grade I turf test run June 5. The mile and a quarter New York event is usually a barometer for the best of the Million contenders, and this year was no exception.

The Arlington Million, centerpiece of the Chicago Thoroughbred racing season, will be run Aug. 14 during the one-day International Festival of Racing on that second Saturday in August. Also contested at Arlington Park that day will be the $750,000 Beverly D., sister race of the Million for world class members of the distaff set, and the $400,000 Secretariat, restricted to 3-year-olds of international caliber. Together, those three races, all run over Arlington's world renowned grass course, are the only Grade I events offered in Illinois on an annual basis.

Southern California-based Meteor Storm, trained by Wally Dollase the last two years following a sophomore season in France, captured Santa Anita's grueling Grade II San Juan Capistrano Handicap April 18 prior to his Manhattan victory. Before that, the 6-year-old owned by the Horizon Stable took down winning honors in Santa Anita's Grade II San Luis Rey Handicap March 20.

"We need (Meteor Storm to run in) one more race before the Arlington Million," said Dollase, speaking over the phone from his Southern California headquarters this week. "We're looking at Arlington's Stars and Stripes and the United Nations at Monmouth. We'll decide for sure after looking at the nominations to both those races as well as the weather report, but our main goal for the summer is the Arlington Million."

The Grade III Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup Turf will be run July 4 at a mile and a half over the Chicago lawn, while the Grade I United Nations, at 11 furlongs over the turf on the New Jersey shore, is scheduled the previous day.

"Wherever we go, we'd follow our usual routine and fly in the Tuesday before the race," said Dollase, who will celebrate his 67th birthday two weeks before this summer's 22nd running of the Arlington Million.

Born in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, but now a resident of Pasadena, California, he has saddled two previous Million starters, both in 1991. His trainee Algenib finished second by a head to Tight Spot that year. Itsallgreektome, the other Dollase-conditioned starter in the 1991 Million, finished seventh, some five lengths further back.

Dollase has a second nominee to Arlington Million XXII named Irish Warrior, owned by John Coleman, George Dasaro, James Thompson et al. Bred in Kentucky, Irish Warrior also remains a strong possibility as a contestant.

"He hurt himself in that race Saturday," said Dollase, speaking of Irish Warrior's incomplete outing in the Grade I Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap June 12 at Hollywood Park. "He a hit a hole in that turf course and the jockey eased him up. He has been jogging fine since then, and his ultra sound was fine after the race. However, we are also having some X-rays taken. I can't tell you right now that he will definitely be in the race, but if he continues to do well, I'd like to bring him. He's a very nice horse."

Prior to his misadventure in the Whittingham, Irish Warrior was fourth in Hollywood's Grade III Inglewood Handicap on Kentucky Derby Day, May 1. Earlier this year, the son of Irish River out of an Alleged mare captured the Turf Paradise Breeders' Cup Handicap and last summer took down winning honors in the Grade II Del Mar Handicap.

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