09/28/2006 12:00AM

Ashkal Way playing catch 'em


ELMONT, N.Y. - Ashkal Way, who has been a pleasant surprise for the Goldolphin Stable of Sheikh Mohammed this year, bids for a second straight graded stakes victory Saturday in the Grade 2, $250,000 Kelso Breeders' Cup Stakes on the turf at Belmont Park.

The one-mile Kelso, with a 4:15 p.m. Eastern post time, starts the NTRA National Pick 4, which offers a guaranteed $400,000 pool. The four races - the Kelso, the Kentucky Cup Classic, the Yellow Ribbon, and the Clement Hirsch Turf Championship - will be telecast live by ESPN from 4-6 p.m.

Ashkal Way has won 4 of 6 starts this year, including the Elkwood at Monmouth Park and the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch at Saratoga.

Not a bad resume for a horse acquired at the end of last year by Godolphin Racing to compete in Dubai.

"They only got one race out of him over there, for whatever reason," said assistant trainer Rick Mettee, who oversees Godolphin's New York-based runners. "We figured he had most of his conditions, and we could bring him here and have a little fun with him. He's exceeded our expectations."

A 4-year-old gelding, Ashkal Way has developed into a consistent closer.

"He's an uncomplicated little horse, and I expect another good race from him if we get enough pace to run at," Mettee said. "I expect him to come running."

The pace could come from Friendly Island, a sprinter from the Todd Pletcher barn, who will break from the outside in his turf debut. He most recently was third in the Grade 1 Forego at seven furlongs in Saratoga.

Art Master is the unknown factor in the race. The multiple Group 3 winner in France makes his U.S. debut on Lasix for trainer Bobby Frankel.

Meteor Storm, 7, sidelined all year while recovering from ankle surgery, has been most effective at longer distances in a career in which he has earned almost $1 million.

Trainer Wally Dollase feels Meteor Storm's ability to stalk the pace gives his horse a shot against Ashkal Way.

"He's the one to beat, no doubt about it, but he comes from way out of it," Dollase said. "Meteor Storm doesn't have to be that far back. He can run closer to the pace and he might have an advantage when they turn for home. He might not get outrun the last part of it."

Completing the field are Baron Von Tap, Drum Major, Free Thinking, and Old Forester, who is also entered in Friday night's Cliff Hanger Stakes at the Meadowlands.