10/30/2008 12:00AM

Pair of aged geldings fit well in John Henry


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - John Henry, according to folk legend, was a "steel-driving" man who helped build the nation's railroads.

John Henry, the Hall of Fame horse, was forged from a different steel, the kind that enabled him to win his final race, the 1984 Ballantine Scotch Classic at the Meadowlands Racetrack at age 9.

The Meadowlands remembers that shining moment Saturday night with the $60,000 John Henry Stakes, run at the same 1 3/8-mile distance as the namesake's last victory.

It seems fitting that two of the top contenders, Hotstufanthensome and Dreadnaught, are cut from the John Henry cloth: accomplished geldings still going strong at 8.

Hotstufanthensome makes his first start for trainer Ben Perkins Jr. after Main Street Stable transferred him from Terri Pompay. It's his second new home this year.

A longtime fixture in Norman Pointer's barn, Hotstufanthensome was claimed by Pompay for $62,500 at Gulfstream Park in January. He went 1 for 5 over the summer in New Jersey, missing by a neck in the Grade 3 Oceanport Stakes.

"He's a nice old horse," Perkins said. "The turf horses tend to stay in one piece a little longer. He looks clean, he trains well, and we're looking forward to running him."

There aren't many grass opportunities left in the region, prompting the decision to run in the John Henry

"We'll talk about it but we might give him the winter off," Perkins said. "It's tough to send him to Florida at this point. They start the turf in spring pretty early at Pimlico. That's what we've done with most of our turf horses in the past. Laurel is open pretty late for turf, so we'll keep an eye on that as long as the weather's okay."

While most of his races have been shorter than this distance, Hotstufanthensome did win the 2006 Mac Diarmida Handicap at Gulfstream at the same 1 3/8 miles.

His lone Meadowlands win in three attempts was a 14 1/2-length romp on soft turf in the Grade 3 Cliffhanger Stakes in 2005.

Distance shouldn't be a concern for Dreadnaught, who has been keeping fit by switching back and forth from flat racing to steeplechasing for trainer Tom Voss. Most recently, Dreadnaught was a rallying third over the hurdles at Far Hills, N.J., on the Grand National undercard.

In his lone Meadowlands appearance, Dreadnaught missed by a neck in the 2004 John Henry.

* A New Jersey state appeals court rejected Jesus Guadalupe's bid to restore his jockey's license. Guadalupe, 57, served prison time for race fixing at Garden State Park in the 1970s. He has been riding in Puerto Rico in recent years.