09/29/2002 11:00PM

Talented but fragile Metatron returns

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SAN MATEO, Calif. - It has been a long wait, but trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is hopeful his patience will finally be rewarded when the talented 3-year-old Metatron returns to the races in Wednesday's feature race at Bay Meadows.

Metatron has five rivals in a six-furlong, $40,000 optional claimer. Wild Celebration, the other 3-year-old in the field, is the only runner offered for the $40,000 claiming price.

Metatron has not run since scoring a seven-length victory wire to wire at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 1. That was his first start since a third-place finish in the Lanes End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Oct. 1, 2001.

Metatron had one victory, a pair of seconds, and two thirds in five starts as a 2-year-old. Among the horses to finish ahead of him were Came Home in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship, Officer in the Best Pal and the Del Mar Futurity, and Siphonic in the Lanes End Breeders' Futurity.

Metatron was scheduled to run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile when he suffered an infection that nearly cost him his life.

Following his comeback race in February, a tiny chip was discovered in an ankle and was surgically removed.

Hollendorfer knows how good Metatron can be and is anxious for him to run. But he's not rushing things.

He said Coyote Creek Racing, Metatron's owner and breeder, showed patience in preparing for the comeback.

"You have to have the owner's cooperation," he said.

Hollendorfer will ultimately point Metatron for route races, but he says he has no specific plans going into Wednesday's race.

"You try to get them ready," he said. "You look at the works to see if they're ready. I just made a training schedule for him. You try to make a good schedule for every horse."

It's tough to find suitable races at Bay Meadows, but Hollendorfer insists he hasn't rushed Metatron into this spot.

"If he didn't have the works he needed, we wouldn't run him," Hollendorfer said.

Metatron enters the race with six listed works, two at four furlongs, including a 46.60-second bullet on Sept. 3, one at five furlongs, and three at six furlongs, including one bullet work of 1:13.80 on Sept. 17 and his final prerace drill of 1:12.80 from the gate last Friday.

Hollendorfer does not work horses fast and said he doesn't really look at the time. What makes him happy is the way Metatron is doing things.

"He's running really smooth," Hollendorfer said.

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