11/30/2007 1:00AM

Rocket Rodd set for vast improvement

EmailSTICKNEY, Ill. - The stars did not align for Rocket Rodd in the Sun Power Stakes on Nov. 3 at Hawthorne, but his fortunes may take a turn for the better in the featured seventh race here Sunday.

Rocket Rodd scored the most impressive Illinois-bred 2-year-old maiden win of the Arlington meet, winning by seven lengths on July 22. His trainer, Michele Boyce, put Rocket Rodd away for the rest of the summer, awaiting prime fall opportunities at Hawthorne. But once back in breezing condition, Rocket Rodd came around more slowly than anticipated, and Boyce was unable to get a prep race for the $100,000 Sun Power, the major autumn goal.

Rocket Rodd came up to that race at least slightly behind schedule - and things only got worse out on the track. A horse broke through the gate and ran off a quarter-mile before being corralled and led back. Meanwhile, Rocket Rodd - who already was going to be extra-sharp, as a speed horse coming back from a layoff - waited and waited in the gate. When the doors sprung, Rocket Rodd fired into action - and stopped before even hitting the stretch.

The distant 10th-place finish, however, should have added needed fitness to Rocket Rodd, and for good measure, Boyce got in a bullet five-furlong work on Nov. 24. Hawthorne's racing surface has played really fast this week, often heavily promoting early speed - just the kind of track that should suit a quick sprinter like Rocket Rodd.

To win Sunday's seventh, which is carded for six furlongs, and open to entry-level allowance horses or $50,000 claimers, Rocket Rodd may have to beat Oatman, who ran well in defeat at this came class level Nov.o15. Oatman, trained by Frank Kirby, beat only $25,000 maiden claimers in his career debut here, but gave the sharp 2-year-old Palmerstown a serious stretch tussle last time out before finally succumbing in the final half-furlong.

Hensely, from the Steve Asmussen barn, also could be a factor.

Three riders down

Jockeys Lyndie Wade and Randy Meier both were injured in a nasty spill in Friday's third race. Wade, a 16-year-old apprentice, was knocked out, and as of about 4 p.m Central had not yet regained consciousness, according to his agent, Jay Fedor. Meier, a veteran with a long history of injuries, broke his left shoulder, according to his agent, Penny Ffitch-Heyes. Both riders were taken to Loyola Hospital in nearby Maywood.

The incident took place just before the quarter pole, as the field turned into the stretch. Wade's mount, Chestnut Gold, broke down suddenly, causing Meier's horse, Arazi Exchange, to go down. Wade was thrown hard to the outside, and appeared to be struck by two trailing horses.

In Friday's sixth race, leading rider Tim Thornton was thrown from his mount at the start. He, too, went to Loyola for X-rays and apparently injured his ribs, according to his agent, Jimmy Ernesto.