09/26/2006 11:00PM

Meteor Storm eases back into action

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Wally Dollase admits the Grade 2, $250,000 Kelso Breeders' Cup Stakes at one mile on the turf is hardly ideal for Meteor Storm in his comeback Saturday at Belmont Park.

"It's not his best distance, but he has run some good races at one mile," Dollase said. "His best distance is probably a mile and three-eighths or a mile and a half. We're kind of giving him the race."

Meteor Storm, now 7, has not run since winning the 1 1/2-mile Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap at Calder last December. Turf marathons have been Meteor Storm's bread-and-butter in a career that has produced seven victories and more than $1.3 million in earnings.

It has been an eventful season for Meteor Storm, and he hasn't even raced. He underwent surgery to remove an ankle chip following the McKnight, and efforts to sell him as a stallion fell through.

"We couldn't get what we wanted for him," Dollase said. "We decided to put him back in training. When he came up with a little chip in the McKnight, we decided to have surgery, and all of that takes time. That's why there is such a pause between races."

Meteor Storm faced a similar situation in his first start last year at Santa Anita following a similar layoff. Meteor Storm returned in the Grade 1 Kilroe Handicap at one mile, losing by only 2 1/4 lengths to Breeders' Cup-bound Leroidesanimaux.

"We did the same thing following some time off, and it was a good effort against some of the best horses in California at the time," Dollase said. "He's been working real well for this race."

Meteor Storm returns to face a solid field of milers, headed by Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap winner Ashkal Way. Belmont stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes listed Art Master, Drum Major, Free Thinking, Friendly Island, and Old Forester as other likely Kelso runners.

Few willing to face Discreet Cat

A small field looks likely for Belmont's Grade 2, $150,000 Jerome Breeders' Cup for 3-year-olds at one mile on Sunday, as the presence of UAE Derby winner Discreet Cat has suppressed interest. Byrnes had only three opponents lined up as of Wednesday: Nar, Noonmark, and Spring at Last.

Noonmark will get a new pilot in John Velazquez. Noonmark, trained by Scott Blasi, has not run since getting cooked in a speed duel in the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes on July 31 at Saratoga.

"He's been training well and we hope for him to run well," said assistant trainer Toby Sheets. "It's an awfully nice horse we have to run against."

The Jerome was a long-term goal, one that Discreet Cat did not derail.

"We picked out the race earlier in the year," Sheets said. "We stuck to our guns. This horse likes Belmont."

Noonmark won his maiden here by 10 1/4 lengths last October and earlier this year finished third in Belmont's Grade 2 Woody Stephens Breeders' Cup Stakes.

Noonmark is most effective when he can rate. Some of his poorest efforts have come in races such as the Amsterdam where he was keen to run with the early leaders.

"He likes to sit and relax and make a move," Sheets said. "Hopefully, we'll get a decent shot at that."

Rewrite prevails by a head

Rewrite, with Mike Smith aboard, knifed between rivals in the deep stretch to get up by a head over Artistic Express on Wednesday in the $67,500 Irish Actress Stakes on the turf for New York-bred 3-year-old fillies.

Rewrite ($5.10) rebounded nicely from a sixth-place finish in the Irish Linnet Stakes last month at Saratoga.

Trainer Christophe Clement noticed that Rewrite was not sweating enough in the summer heat. He took her off Lasix for the Irish Actress and Rewrite responded with her fourth win in six career starts. The time was 1:41.27 for the 1 1/16 miles on the firm course.

Rare start on dirt for Defer

Defer, once under consideration for the Kelso, returns to the main track Friday for the $74,000 feature, an optional claiming race with a third-level allowance condition at 1 1/16 miles.

Defer makes his first dirt start since running seventh last year in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. He faces four rivals, including Mr. Whitestone, the only horse carrying the $75,000 claiming tag.