06/04/2004 11:00PM

This time, Dollase gets his graded stakes win

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Meteor Storm charges down the stretch to win the Manhattan Handicap by 1 1/4 lengths.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Wally Dollase came to New York last year and finished second with Ten Most Wanted in the Belmont Stakes. This year, Dollase's trip was a bit more rewarding when he saddled Meteor Storm to a victory in the Grade 1, $400,000 on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

Meteor Storm, who was ridden by Jose Valdivia Jr., won the Manhattan by 1 1/4 lengths over Millennium Dragon. Mr O'Brien finished a nose behind in third. Stroll, the 3-2 favorite and 121-pound highweight, finished sixth.

Millennium Dragon was expected to be on or near the lead in the 1 1/4-mile turf race, but it was European shipper King's Drama and Quest Star who battled up front, with Stroll sitting off those two. Millennium Dragon raced in seventh position in the nine-horse field for the first six furlongs, which was run in 1:12.30 after an opening quarter-mile in 23.98 seconds and a half-mile in 48.48.

Meteor Storm raced in eighth down the backstretch while saving ground. At the top of the stretch, Valdivia swung Meteor Storm to the outside, and Meteor Storm came charging down the stretch to overtake King's Drama, Quest Star, Stroll, and Millennium Dragon.

Meteor Storm ($14) covered the distance over a firm course in 1:59.34.

Jerry Bailey, who rode Grade 1 winner Stroll, said his mount didn't have his customary punch.

"The only conclusion you can draw is that it was a little far for him," Bailey said.

Valdivia said he was just biding his time to let Meteor Storm unleash his run.

"This horse deserves a Grade 1," Valdivia said. "All the way around, I had so much horse under me."

Dollase bought Meteor Storm, a 5-year-old son of Bigstone, for $188,000 out of the Tattersalls sale two years ago. Meteor Storm was consigned to the sale by Juddmonte Farms, which finished eighth in the Manhattan with Epicentre.

With his win in the Manhattan, Meteor Storm, who is owned by The Horizon Stable, boosted his earnings to $645,884.

The Manhattan was Meteor Storm's third consecutive win in a graded stakes race this year. At Santa Anita, he won the Grade 2 San Luis Rey in March and the Grade 2 San Juan Capistrano in April.

Dollase said he was a bit surprised that Meteor Storm was 6-1, considering he was coming off back-to-back stakes wins.

"With the West vs. East, how do you know? I thought why not give it a try," Dollase said.

Dollase said he had no immediate plans for Meteor Storm, who is based at Hollywood Park.