Updated on 09/16/2011 8:45AM

Metatron also battling expectations


ALBANY, Calif. - The word "potential" is the bane of athletes. It's a label that the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained 3-year-old Metatron has carried with him since he won his debut.

Metatron has won 3 of 9 starts, and has finished off the board only once, in his last race, a sprint stakes against older horses. He has earned $186,720, cheated death, and come back from an operation for chips in his knee.

But the "P" word clouds everything Metatron has accomplished.

"He's a nice little colt, maybe not quite as good as we originally hoped, but still good enough to win some big races here," said jockey Russell Baze after Metatron's seventh-place finish in the six-furlong Albany Handicap on Nov. 9.

Metatron will get a chance to live up to those early expectations Friday in the $100,000 Forty-Niner Handicap at 1 1/16 miles at Golden Gate.

"I should never have run him short like that against older," Hollendorfer said of Metatron's race in the Albany. "It was a mistake on my part."

As a 2-year-old, Metatron finished second to Came Home in the Hollywood Juvenile and second and third to Officer in the Best Pal and Del Mar Futurity. He then ran third behind Siphonic and Harlan's Holiday in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland before becoming gravely ill with colitis X.

"He could have lost his life," Hollendorfer said. "Fortunately, we spotted it immediately, but he spent a month in the hospital."

Three months after getting out of the hospital, Metatron made his 3-year-old debut at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 1 and was a seven-length winner of an allowance race.

But he had to go to the sidelines again to have a bone chip removed from a knee.

He lost a photo in his Oct. 2 return at Bay Meadows and won his next start before the Albany.

"I think he'll run good," Hollendorfer said of the Forty-Niner, "and Russell thinks the same, which gives me confidence."

Races are overfilling; why not add more?

Races here are filling so well that extra races are often filling, but not being used.

Tom Roberts is one of several trainers who believe the track should card more races now when the weather is good. "My feeling with horses is, they're not like cars," he said. "If you don't run them now, it's not like if you wait they'll still be ready to go.

"Right now, they could add races, and it would help everybody."

Racing secretary Greg Brent says good weather, horses being healthy now after a virus struck in early September, and a larger onsite horse population are reasons for the buildup of horses.

While he understands the value of adding races now, Brent said one problem is jockeys have informed management that Golden Gate Fields's lights aren't good enough for them to ride late-afternoon races.

Richard Lewis, the coordinator of racing operations, says an earlier post could allow for additional races. But he said he doesn't know how fans would respond to a change in post time and that Golden Gate Fields likes to operate within the Hollywood Park schedule, which starts 15 minutes earlier.