06/05/2001 12:00AM

Last drills before Belmont


ELMONT, N.Y. - A P Valentine, the Preakness Stakes runner-up, completed his preparation for Saturday's 133rd Belmont Stakes with a five-furlong drill in 59.35 seconds on Tuesday morning at Belmont Park. The time was the fourth best of 22 at the distance.

A P Valentine's work was the last serious drill among the nine horses expected to be entered Wednesday morning for the third leg of the Triple Crown.

The forecast for Belmont Day, according to the National Weather Service, is for isolated thunderstorms and a high of 75 degrees. It was gorgeous in New York on Tuesday, with clear skies and a high in the lower 70's. Rain showers were forecast for Thursday and isolated thunderstorms for Friday.

A P Valentine hit the track just before 7 a.m. and jogged nearly one mile before breaking off just before the five-furlong pole. Jamie Sanders, his regular work rider, smacked A P Valentine once right-handed as he began his drill, then let A P Valentine roll the rest of the way.

Asked why Sanders whipped A P Valentine at the start of the work, trainer Nick Zito replied, "I don't see you wanting to get out of bed and running down the stairs in the morning."

"I'm really happy with the work," Zito added.

A P Valentine has won both of his previous starts at Belmont Park, including the Champagne Stakes last fall. He was second in the Preakness following a rough trip in the Kentucky Derby, in which he finished seventh after getting stopped badly on the far turn.

"The frustrating thing for me is that I knew how well he was doing for the Kentucky Derby," Zito said. "That race was really hard for me. So when people ask if I think he's caught up now, it's hard for me to answer, because I thought he was there for the Derby."

Dr Greenfield, who has shipped in from Britain for the Belmont Stakes, arrived on Monday night and was expected to be released from quarantine Wednesday morning. The last horses who will arrive on the grounds are Buckle Down Ben, Dollar Bill, and Point Given, the Preakness winner. They have been training at Churchill Downs and were scheduled to be flown from Kentucky to New York on Wednesday morning.

Point Given merely walked after his workout on Monday.

Monarchos, the Kentucky Derby winner, returned to the track at Belmont Park on Tuesday for an easy gallop. He worked on Sunday, then walked Monday.

Also returning to the track, for jogs, were trainer Todd Pletcher's duo of Balto Star and Invisible Ink, both of whom also worked here Sunday.

Thunder Blitz continued his series of strong gallops Tuesday morning. His appearance on the training track was delayed a bit because he needed to have a hind shoe properly aligned after losing a nail from the shoe earlier Tuesday.

"It just needed to be re-attached. It was no big deal," said his trainer, Joe Orseno.