03/27/2005 1:00AM

Stanley Park upsets San Luis Rey Stakes


ARCADIA, Calif. - It took nearly 16 months and plenty of patience, but for trainer John Shirreffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss, the wait was worth it.

Their horse Stanley Park, who fractured a hind pastern bone in November 2003 and did not return to the races until last month, scored the biggest victory of his career on Sunday when he rallied to capture the Grade 2, $200,000 at Santa Anita.

The San Luis Rey, at 1 1/2 miles on turf, was expected to be a match race between the tenacious front-runner Star Over the Bay, and the race's defending champion, Meteor Storm. But Star Over the Bay tired after 1 1/4 miles, and Meteor Storm could not stave off the late run of Stanley Park.

Stanley Park ($16.60), with Gary Stevens aboard, wore down Meteor Storm to prevail by one length. Meteor Storm, the 3-2 favorite, finished a half-length in front of third-place Epicentre. Star Over the Bay faded to finish fifth in the field of 10. Kurm was scratched because of a swollen ankle.

Stanley Park covered the 1 1/2 miles on firm turf in 2:24.45. The first three furlongs of the race are run downhill.

Star Over the Bay was ridden by Tyler Baze, who traveled halfway the world from Dubai to for the mount. After connecting in London for a flight to Los Angeles, Baze took a helicopter that landed across the street from the track at Arcadia Methodist Hospital about 75 minutes before post time for the San Luis Rey.

Star Over the Bay took up his customary position up front and led through fractions of 24.32 seconds, 47.08 seconds, 1:10.84, and 1:35.62 for the first mile. Meteor Storm was closer than usual in third place, with Stanley Park back in seventh.

Meteor Storm surged to the front as the field turned into the lane, but Stanley Park was closing faster.

The win was the fourth in 11 starts for Stanley Park, a 5-year-old son of Swain. His only previous stakes victory came in the Bay Meadows Derby in November 2003. Four weeks later, Stanley Park finished eighth in a roughly run Hollywood Derby in which he lost by less than two lengths.

"He got blocked or he could have won the Hollywood Derby," Shirreffs said.

Stanley Park was given a lengthy vacation after fracturing his right hind pastern bone. "It's an unusual fracture in that you can't (operate). You just have to let it heal," Shirreffs said.

Stanley Park had raced twice without success in third-level allowance races since coming back, but Shirreffs thought he was coming up to an improved performance because "he's trained so well."