08/29/2003 12:00AM

Meteoric sharp for final


Since he left the Pacific Northwest with an unbeaten record in the late spring of 2002, Meteoric has starred in the trials for several major Quarter Horse futurities and derbies.

The finals have been a different matter.

Meteoric finished third in the 2002 All American, second in the Los Alamitos Million, and missed the Golden State Futurity because of illness. This summer, he finished a troubled sixth in the Rainbow Derby at Ruidoso Downs.

A year of frustration in big races can end in Sunday's $694,646 All American Derby at Ruidoso Downs.

Meteoric, owned by the Dutch Masters III partnership, set the fastest time in the Aug. 15 qualifying trials - 440 yards in 21.189 seconds - leaving trainer Lin Melton confident about Sunday's race.

"He came back very good and that's the best part," Melton said. "He had the inside part in the trials and that has been pretty slow."

Meteoric, a winner of 10 of 13 starts and $473,572, drew post 4 in the 10-runner field and will be ridden by G.R. Carter Jr.

Meteoric is seeking his third stakes win, having won two minor futurities in Idaho and Washington in the spring of 2002.

At Ruidoso Downs, Meteoric has won 4 of 6 starts. He was beaten a head in the All American Futurity last September, ending an unbeaten run of six wins. "That was so heartbreaking," Melton said.

Last month, he broke slowly in the Rainbow Derby.

"He completely missed the break and had his head turned to the side," Melton said. "He came along the outside and passed a few horses. The only disappointing race he's ever given us was the Rainbow Derby final."

The Rainbow Derby was Meteoric's first major stakes race since undergoing surgery to have a bone chip removed from a knee in January. "We're pretty happy he's come back," Melton said.

Two other runners from the 2002 All American Futurity are in the derby field - Andthebeatgoeson and Special Red Warrior, both of whom were unplaced. This year, Andthebeatgoeson has finished seventh in the Rainbow Derby. Special Red Warrior won a minor stakes race at Retama Park.

Southern Cartel also will attract support in Sunday's final. Southern Cartel, who is trained by Eddie Willis, drew the outside post.

Earlier this year, Southern Cartel won the Lazy E Derby at Blue Ribbon Downs in Oklahoma in April and the Ruidoso Derby in June. After a second in the Rainbow Derby, Southern Cartel finished fourth behind Meteoric in a division of the All American Derby trials.