08/26/2006 12:00AM

Gold Storm sets stakes record


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Gold Storm is a 6-year-old who missed more than a year of racing with a serious leg injury, but from all appearances, he is just as good now as he was on Aug. 28, 2004. That day, Gold Storm won the Arlington Breeders' Cup Sprint by three-quarters of a length, and Saturday, he won it again, beating Coach Jimi Lee by 1 1/2 lengths while setting a stakes record.

Credit goes to jockey Tracy Hebert, who gave Gold Storm a good trip from post 7 on Saturday, but it is trainer Bubba Cascio who has helped make Gold Storm into a star. Cascio and owner Keith McKinney claimed Gold Storm for $50,000 out of his career debut in the summer of 2003, and the gelding now has made more than a half-million dollars. Gold Storm's conformation is far from ideal - Cascio compared his lower legs to a duck's - and he suffered an injury late in the spring of 2005 that nearly ended his career.

"I didn't know if I'd ever get him back again," Cascio said. "He pulled a suspensory [ligament] real bad."

But after a series of brilliant workouts this spring, Gold Storm set a track record at Evangeline Downs in his comeback race. On July 15, he finished eighth of 13 after traveling to Calder for the Smile Sprint Handicap, but Cascio blamed the loss on racing Gold Storm without blinkers, and he put them back on for Gold Storm's return trip to Arlington.

That worked. Pressing a hot pace, with Coach Jimi Lee down on the inside and Elusive Jazz between horses, Gold Storm turned for home with a full head of steam. "I called on him at the top of the stretch and he just got real aggressive," Hebert said.

Coach Jimi Lee fought on bravely, but couldn't keep up with Gold Storm in the last half-furlong. "He was fighting all the way, but at the eighth pole, that other horse took off," jockey Eddie Perez said.

Level Playingfield rallied from sixth to finish third, and was followed by Alabama Clay, Elusive Jazz, Kelly's Landing, and Rogue Scholar. Elusive Jazz, the 2-1 favorite, faded steadily after pressing the early pace.

"He was too fresh early," trainer Bobby Barnett said.

Gold Storm, who paid $20 when he won in 2004, paid $16 to win Saturday, and his time of 1:08.39 for six furlongs was the fastest Arlington Sprint on the books.