05/31/2001 11:00PM

Orseno, Thunder Blitz have that winning look


ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Joe Orseno is starting to get that look again. It's the look of a man who is bringing a howitzer to a knife fight. It's the look he displayed in the days leading up to the 2000 Preakness when Red Bullet upset Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus.

Orseno displayed this look Friday morning after watching Thunder Blitz, the fourth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, train for the 133rd Belmont Stakes, which will be run Saturday. It wasn't so much the final time of 48.44 seconds for his half-mile breeze over the main track that impressed Orseno. It was the way Thunder Blitz galloped out, going five furlongs in 1:00.98, six furlongs in 1:13, seven furlongs in 1:27, and, finally pulling up a mile in 1:40.55.

"He's just really on edge right now," Orseno said. "A mile in 1:40 and two - I mean come on. He's so ready, so fit. I'm real happy the way he's going into it. It's exciting."

Last spring, after Red Bullet ran second in the Wood Memorial, Orseno skipped the Kentucky Derby with him and had five weeks to prepare for the Preakness. He used a mix of long gallops and sharp workouts leading up to the race. This year, after Thunder Blitz ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby, Orseno skipped the Preakness and had five weeks to prepare for the Belmont. Thunder Blitz certainly shows the stamina to get the demanding 1 1/2 miles of the Belmont.

"I didn't do some of the things I did with Red Bullet because this horse does a lot of it on his own," Orseno said about his training methods. "Red Bullet, when you tell him to open gallop, he puts everything into it. But he doesn't gallop at the same pace that this horse gallops. You've got to watch because you can actually do too much with a horse like this."

The morning after the Kentucky Derby, prior to studying a replay of the race, Orseno felt Edgar Prado may have made a premature move on Thunder Blitz down the backside. Thunder Blitz raced along the rail and was pinned in by Startac early. When Startac couldn't keep up, Thunder Blitz was in the clear and made a strong move to go from 12 lengths back to within three lengths approaching the quarter pole. He didn't have much left for the stretch drive.

Orseno said Thunder Blitz switched leads a couple of times in the stretch and in the last 50 yards he started to run again.

"I really think if he could have just had a clean trip through the lane and stayed on the rail, maybe we could have been in the mix for second," Orseno said. "We might have still been fourth, but we would have been running at them and everybody would have said 'Ooh.' No disappointment; the horse came back good and sound."

Thunder Blitz did come back from the Derby bleeding from his mouth. Orseno said the horse bit the tip of his tongue, something he had done a few times in the morning. Orseno said Thunder Blitz will not run with a tongue tie in the Belmont, a small piece of equipment he had been running with.

"When we tie it he sticks it out the front and just bites the tip," Orseno said.

Orseno said Thunder Blitz would simply gallop up to the Belmont.

Easy day for Monarchos

Monarchos, the Kentucky Derby winner, jogged once around Belmont Park's main track Friday morning.

Yvonne Azeff, assistant to trainer John Ward, said that Monarchos had a strong gallop Thursday over the main track. She timed his first mile in 2:12 and his last half-mile in 1:00.

"It's getting to be his normal gallop," Azeff said. "I've got to find a way to slow him down, so he doesn't do so much in the morning."

Azeff said Monarchos is due to work Sunday, although with rain in the forecast the work could be pushed back a day. Azeff said she would prefer to see Monarchos work over a dry track, although Ward will make the final call.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he plans to work Invisible Ink and Balto Star Sunday, but would also consider pushing the works to Monday if it meant a dry track.

* Belmont will offer a guaranteed $1 million pick six beginning with race 6 on Belmont Stakes Day. It will also offer a guaranteed pick four pool of $250,000 starting with race 8.