09/18/2007 12:00AM

Turf marathon ideal for old-timer

EmailSAN MATEO, Calif. - Trainer Tim Bellasis was planning a trip to Fairplex when he claimed Earnest Storm for $6,250 on Aug. 26.

Bellasis was pleasantly surprised when an even better race filled at Bay Meadows, so he's staying home and sending out the 9-year-old Earnest Storm in Thursday's first race, a $10,000 claimer on grass.

"The reason I claimed him was that Fairplex had a starter allowance race for sixty-two-fifties, and he just became eligible in that race when I claimed him," Bellasis said. "I was thinking Fairplex because there was an $18,000 pot. Then this came up."

What could be better for Earnest Storm than a 1 3/8-mile race on the turf? He has run the distance eight times in his career, winning five starts and finishing second twice.

Nineteen of his 20 career victories have come on grass, as have all but $31,520 of his $366,585 earnings.

"He's kind of a grinder," Bellasis said of the gelding, who arrived in Northern California for the first time this year. "He knows what he's doing. I claimed him because I've had success with older horses, and they are starting to write a few longer races like this up here."

Earnest Storm has not missed a paycheck locally. He has a second and three thirds in four starts.

Earnest Storm scored back-to-back wins at Thursday's distance as the favorite this past spring at Golden Gate Fields in a $25,000 optional claimer and a $16,000 claimer, while recording his best Beyer Speed Figures of the year.

Although he lacks early speed, Earnest Storm doesn't have any stop in him, running as far as needed to get the job done.

Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze, who guided him to his two marathon victories at Golden Gate, takes the call back on Earnest Storm after riding him in his second-place finish on Aug. 26.

Trailing by a dozen lengths after the opening half-mile, Earnest Storm got closer on the turn and found himself five wide swinging for home. He missed by only one-half length to Sixty Two Lincoln, who has always done well on the Bay Meadows turf.

"He just kind of ran out of ground last time," Bellasis said of the late rally. "He likes this distance because he doesn't have to rush too soon, and he can run all day. Some horses are like that."

None of his four rivals has attempted the distance on turf.

Time to Honor is 4 for 9 on grass, while Freedoms Cat has won three times but has tried 1 1/2 miles without success in the past.