05/25/2001 11:00PM

Bailey will ride Thunder Blitz


ELMONT, N.Y. - Despite more wet weather Saturday morning, three contenders for the June 9 Belmont Stakes put in workouts over a training track labeled good by the clockers.

Thunder Blitz, the fourth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby went seven furlongs in 1:27.48. At about the same time, Invisible Ink, the Derby runner-up, went five furlongs in 1:03.05 and Balto Star, the 14th-place finisher in the Derby, went five furlongs in 1:02.31.

Also on Saturday, riding assignments for Thunder Blitz and Dr Greenfield were firmed up with Jerry Bailey being named to replace Edgar Prado on Thunder Blitz and Prado accepting the mount on Dr Greenfield for the June 9 Belmont, the third leg of the Triple Crown.

Thunder Blitz, who won the Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah, got re-acquainted with Bailey who guided him through fractional splits of 12.16 seconds, 24.24, 36.20, 48.01, and 1:14.46. Clockers caught him galloping out a mile in 1:43.42.

Bailey rode the horse twice this winter at Gulfstream, finishing second and third in preliminary allowance races.

"He galloped out very strong, which I wanted him to and he was hard to pull up," Bailey said. "He's the perfect kind of horse for this race, [1 1/2 miles] is right up his alley."

Orseno originally wanted to work over the main track but on the way there he instructed Bailey to go to the training track which he felt was in much better shape. Orseno liked what he saw.

"He didn't want to pull up after the work," Orseno said. "The pony had to go get him. I'm real pleased with him. He's so fit, he moves no air at all after he's through breezing. I'm totally tickled with the way he's doing. I know he's fresh."

Orseno performed an endoscopic examination after the workout and Thunder Blitz came back clean.

Orseno said the jockey change to Bailey was no reflection on Prado and was made after consulting with owner Frank Stronach. Bailey won the 1991 Belmont aboard Hansel.

"Jerry won two Breeders' Cup races for us and the Preakness, not to mention $4 million in other races for us," Orseno said. "We just feel that our best chance is with somebody that's been there a lot of times."

Orseno said Thunder Blitz has put on 40 pounds since the Kentucky Derby. Orseno said he wasn't sure if Thunder Blitz would have another work before the Belmont.

Pletcher moves works up

Todd Pletcher had planned to work Invisible Ink and Balto Star over the main track on Sunday. But with rain in the forecast through Monday, Pletcher saw a window of opportunity to work them over a reasonably good training track.

Exercise rider Judy Elias was aboard both 3-year-olds, who went out moments apart after the break.

Clockers caught Invisible Ink in fractions of 13.92, 26.21, 38.36, and caught him galloping out six furlongs in 1:16.14. Balto Star was timed in splits of 24.82, 37.00, and out six furlongs in 1:15.09 and seven-eighths in 1:30.15.

Pletcher said he was looking for both horses to go between 1:01 and 1:02 but noted that the moisture-laden track "was probably playing one to two seconds slower than it normally would. Both horses did it very much within themselves, both had their ears pricked through the lane. Judy never moved a muscle on either one of them."

Pletcher said he would work both horses, hopefully, next Sunday.

Perfect Sting works

Perfect Sting, the defending female turf champion, breezed six furlongs in 1:17.42 over a soft turf course Saturday under Bailey. Perfect Sting is being pointed to the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap on Belmont Day where she would be running against colts for the first time.

"I got her the last quarter in 23.60 seconds," Orseno said. "Jerry came back and said 'Joe, she breezed excellent.' If I didn't get this breeze into her today, I would have really been behind and I don't know if she would have been ready to go a mile and a quarter. Let's face it, it's got to be perfect conditions for her to do this."

Orseno said the Manhattan is "not etched in stone" for Perfect Sting. "She could still run in the Just a Game," he said.

Collect the Cash, who won last year's Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth Challenge at Keeneland, breezed four furlongs in 50.92 seconds and is a possible for the Just a Game, Orseno said.