05/26/2005 11:00PM

Does Zito have another Birdstone up his sleeve?

Nick Zito says he thinks Andromeda's Hero should relish 1 1/2 miles.

He had five horses in the Kentucky Derby, three in the Preakness, and has two under consideration for the June 11 Belmont Stakes. So far in this year's Triple Crown, trainer Nick Zito certainly has had the numbers. But the results have been disappointing, though Zito on Friday sounded both hopeful and resilient after Andromeda's Hero, one of his Belmont contenders, turned in a sharp workout at Saratoga.

"I'm extremely grateful we're still standing," Zito said from Saratoga. "We're extremely grateful we still have horses to run. That's how I look at it. Our experience shows just how tough the Triple Crown is."

Andromeda's Hero was the least-regarded of Zito's quintet in the Derby, going off at 57-1. He finished eighth. Last year, Birdstone also finished eighth in the Derby. As with Birdstone, Andromeda's Hero skipped the Preakness to point for the Belmont, and is doing his serious work at Saratoga, where Zito keeps his top runners at this time of year. Friday morning, Andromeda's Hero breezed five furlongs in 1:01.70 in company with the allowance-class runner Last Samurai. Exercise rider Maxine Correa was aboard.

"He galloped out real strong," Zito said. "The thing for him is distance. This should be his distance, a mile and a half. He keeps coming with his run. He wants to go long. That's the main thing. I just hope it's not like an old-time trainer told me. 'Yeah, he wants to go long. All the way to Suffolk Downs.' "

Andromeda's Hero has won twice in seven starts. His biggest victory came in the Sam Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in February. He also was third to Afleet Alex in the Arkansas Derby.

"He's rounding into form, I think," Zito said. "Looking at his pedigree and the way he runs, the Belmont has always been on my mind."

Andromeda's Hero is by Fusaichi Pegasus, and retains some of the flighty nature of his sire, which is why Zito kept Andromeda's Hero at Keeneland leading up to the Derby, and why he is at Saratoga now.

"The Fusaichis are tremendous horses, a lot like the old man, but you've got to handle them with care," Zito said. "You can't make rabbits out of them. I like to train him at places that are serene, where he can develop on his own, where there's not a lot of hustle and bustle."

Zito also has Pinpoint, the winner of last weekend's Sir Barton Stakes, under consideration for the Belmont. "He's a definite possibility," said Zito, who said owner Arthur Hancock III would make the final call on whether Pinpoint runs.

A.P. Arrow under consideration

At Churchill Downs, two possible Belmont starters, A.P. Arrow and Don't Get Mad, had half-mile workouts Thursday. The more probable of the two to actually start, A.P. Arrow, breezed early Thursday, finishing in 47.40 seconds, co-fastest of 37 works at the distance. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he had not yet had a chance to discuss the Belmont status of A.P. Arrow with owner Michael Paulson.

"I will probably breeze him next week, then have a serious talk with Michael about whether or not we should go," Lukas said. "By then, I will have a better idea of which way we should head."

A.P. Arrow, by A.P. Indy, has had three starts. After running second in a maiden sprint at Santa Anita in March, he finished ninth at 22-1 in the April 9 Santa Anita Derby. His latest start resulted in a hard-fought half-length victory in a May 14 maiden race at 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs. His lifetime high Beyer Speed Figure is 86.

Don't Get Mad unlikely to run

Don't Get Mad, one of 100 or so horses caught in the snare of quarantine restrictions at Churchill, breezed Thursday evening, shortly after a 10-race program had ended. With Gary Stevens aboard, he went an easy half-mile in 49.60 seconds.

Trainer Ron Ellis said Friday morning from Southern California that Don't Get Mad, a seven-length winner of the April 30 Derby Trial and subsequently fourth in the Kentucky Derby, is "only a remote possibility" for the Belmont.

"This was his first work since the Derby," Ellis said. "It was just to stretch his legs and keep him fit. Gary said he felt strong, but we did only go a half-mile with him."

Ellis said he plans to fly to Kentucky to watch the next breeze by Don't Get Mad, which probably will come Thursday. The Churchill quarantine is expected to end no sooner than Friday, meaning Don't Get Mad, owned by B. Wayne Hughes, probably will breeze again in the evening.

"We're just keeping our options open," said Ellis, who named the $200,000 Northern Dancer Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile race at Churchill on June 18, as the more viable next start for the colt.

A charter flight from Louisville to New York typically is scheduled for the Wednesday morning before the Belmont. A.P. Arrow and Don't Get Mad are the lone Churchill-based horses under consideration for the Belmont.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee