12/06/2009 12:00AM

Delta Storm can cap his year

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Benoit & Associates
Delta Storm won the Robert Kerlan in June.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Just in time for the end of the year, Delta Storm can win his first graded stakes in Sunday's Grade 3 Vernon Underwood Stakes at Hollywood Park. He has done just about everything else this year.

Delta Storm won the Robert Kerlan Handicap over six furlongs on turf in June, and was third in the Grade 1 Ancient Title Stakes at Santa Anita in October. Those performances, combined with a fast-closing fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Santa Anita last month, give Delta Storm every chance to win the $100,000 Underwood.

Furthermore, the six-furlong distance is an ideal fit for the 8-year-old gelding.

"I think he's got a big chance," trainer Mike Mitchell said. "I think he got back a little too far" in the Breeders' Cup.

Delta Storm was beaten 2 1/2 lengths by California Flag in the BC Turf Sprint, closing from seventh. Owned by Michael House, Delta Storm will be after his third stakes win in the Underwood. He won the restricted Pirate's Bounty Stakes over six furlongs on the main track at Del Mar in 2008.

Delta Storm is most effective when stalking the pace, and he could get an ideal trip in the seven-runner Underwood. Kinsale King and Machismo, who are drawn on the inside two post positions, have ample speed. Delta Storm could get a good position off them under jockey Rafael Bejarano.

"All the speed is on the inside of me, which I like," Mitchell said. "If I'm laying third and on the outside, that's where he's wants to be."

Delta Storm will be challenged late by Noble Court, who was seventh in the BC Turf Sprint. Trained by John Sadler, Noble Court won two stakes earlier this year, including the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap over 7 1/2 furlongs here in June.

The Underwood distance could pose a problem for Noble Court, who is better in longer sprints. He was third in the 2008 Underwood as the 2-1 favorite.

"He needs to have the right setup," Sadler said.

Machismo will be making his first start since an eighth-place finish in the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai last March. Sadler said that the speedy Machismo battled illness upon his return.

Noble Court is the only graded stakes winner of 2009 in the field. Mr. Cacht won two minor stakes in Argentina earlier this year.