06/29/2004 11:00PM

Meteor Storm rolls in for rich U.N.


OCEANPORT, N.J. - The unflappable Meteor Storm took everything in stride Wednesday in his first tour of Monmouth Park.

The likely favorite for the Grade 1, $750,000 United Nations on Saturday, Meteor Storm had an easy jog around the main track on a clear morning with low humidity.

The ideal weather alleviated a major concern of assistant trainer Aimee Dollase, who accompanied Meteor Storm on a Tuesday flight from California.

"This is perfect," said Dollase, daughter of trainer Wally Dollase, as she viewed the track from a backstretch reviewing stand. "You worry about weather on the East Coast this time of year with the humidity."

Meteor Storm departed California early Tuesday on a flight that included stops in Chicago and Louisville. Meteor Storm landed in Farmingdale on Long Island.

"It's a long flight, but he handled it well," said Dollase. "We basically had the same route last time when we flew in for the Manhattan [at Belmont Park]. He is kind of used to the long rides. He's really intelligent. He seems to take everything in stride."

The van carrying Meteor Storm wound up stuck in New York's notorious rush hour traffic, delaying Meteor Storm's arrival at Monmouth until 6:30 p.m.

He bedded down in Kelly Breen's centrally located barn, which has become "Hotel California" for West Coast runners. Breen hosted Doug O'Neill's Cherish Destiny, who won the $60,000 Dearly Precious Stakes Sunday on a disqualification.

Aimee Dollase, 31, handles much of the advance road work for her dad. She accompanies horses when they travel, with Wally arriving closer to race time. Wally is expected in New Jersey on Thursday evening.

Meteor Storm, the leader among turf males in Daily Racing Form handicapper Mike Watchmaker's weekly divisional rankings, completed his major work before leaving Hollywood Park. Meteor Storm breezed five furlongs in 59.40 seconds Monday.

He will gallop in the mornings leading up to the race.

Meteor Storm will try to extend his winning streak to four in the U. N. He became a Grade 1 winner in his most recent outing, a rallying victory in the Manhattan on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

One of Meteor Storm's main opponents in the 1 3/8-mile turf race will be Hard Buck, who boarded the Meteor Storm flight in Louisville.

Hard Buck joined the Grade 1 winner's club in the Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap in February. The well-traveled Brazilian-bred finished second in his last two races: the Group 1 Sheema Classic in Dubai and the Opening Verse Handicap at his home track, Churchill Downs.

Other runners expected for the U.N. include Mr O'Brien, Better Talk Now, Bowman Mill, In Hand, Megantic, and Request for Parole. Trainer Bobby Frankel has two candidates in Gigli and Nothing to Lose.

Balto Star, last year's winner, is a possibility.

Molly Pitcher: Pocus Hocus lone zip

With a small field expected for Sunday's Grade 2, $300,000 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap, pace figures to play a large role in the outcome of the 1 1/8-mile race.

Given the running styles of the six fillies and mares considered likely, it seems Pocus Hocus might be able to get loose through moderate fractions, and if that's the case she could prove to be a handful. She'll be no better than third choice in the wagering, behind Bare Necessities and Yell.

"If she breaks sharply and is able to run evenly, she can be tough," said her trainer, Jimmy Jerkens.

That was pretty much the recipe for success in her latest race, a victory in the Monmouth Beach Stakes in a short field that lacked pace. Matched against five rivals, Pocus Hocus sat just off a controlled pace set by Chrusciki, and edged by that rival late under strong urging by Eibar Coa.

"She doesn't seem to be the kind of horse who can run fast early on and open up a big lead and hold on," said Jerkens. "She has to be comfortable early - maybe she can shade 48 [seconds] for the half - but she needs to run pretty evenly all the way around."

The other candidate to set the pace Sunday is La Reason. Her latest win, in the $75,000 Bayakoa Stakes at Oaklawn, came via a stalking trip, but she's also won a few races on the lead. A daughter of Labeeb, La Reason arrived at Monmouth Park on Tuesday after a flight from Louisville.

Also on that flight was Bare Necessities, much to the chagrin of La Reason's connections.

"We came here to get away from Bare Necessities," said Trisha Vance, daughter of trainer David Vance. Trisha will saddle La Reason Sunday. "At the last minute, they decided to go in the Molly Pitcher, too, and we ended up on the same plane."

The other two Molly Pitcher nominees considered likely to run are Fircroft and Smok'n Frolic.

Forbes likes split divisions

A $43,000 optional claiming allowance on Friday proved so popular that the race office split the 1 1/16-mile race into turf and dirt divisions.

That was good news for trainer John Forbes, who entered a 4-year-old in each division.

Zoffinger, a recent allowance winner, makes his turf debut against eight rivals.

Governor Bennett remains on the main track for Forbes in the other division. Governor Bennett made a strong late run to get second in his last start, following a stumble at the start that left him 12 lengths off the pace.

- additional reporting by Kenny Peck