05/20/2001 11:00PM

Orseno will have fresh 'Thunder' in Belmont

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Friday, on the eve of the Preakness, trainer Joe Orseno watched Thunder Blitz make his way to the five-eighths pole on Belmont Park's main track for his first work since finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby. Orseno remarked that he hadn't been the least bit tempted by the Preakness.

Orseno figured to have Preakness fever after winning the race last year with Red Bullet, who he kept out of the Derby so he could have a fresh horse for the second leg of the Triple Crown. But after this year's Derby, Orseno said he had no intention of going to Maryland and would await the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 9 with Thunder Blitz, a May foal.

Now Orseno will have a fresh horse for the Belmont Stakes, an approach that won him last year's Preakness.

"Do you know what these five weeks will do for Thunder Blitz?" Orseno asked rhetorically. "I had the luxury of giving him two weeks without a work and that should benefit him greatly."

With jockey Edgar Prado up, Thunder Blitz worked after the renovation break on a chilly, cloudy morning. Orseno, with binoculars and stopwatch in hand, said Thunder Blitz, a Holy Bull colt, got the first quarter in 23.40 seconds and the half in 47.40. Orseno timed the five-furlong move in 59.60 seconds, with a six-furlong gallop out time of 1:12.40. The official time on the work tab was 59.81, breezing, the fastest of 18 works at the distance.

Orseno told Prado to go in 1:01, but said he wasn't upset the horse went faster. "Edgar never turned his stick on him. He never moved on him," Orseno said. "He covers so much ground, he's deceiving."

Friday's work was important for two reasons: It was Thunder Blitz's first breeze since the Derby and his first over Belmont's main track. Orseno routinely uses Belmont's training track. "I was anxious to see how he handles this track and now I know he does," Orseno said. "He galloped on this track, but we never turned him loose and gave him his head."

The tongue tie which Thunder Blitz has worn in the mornings and in his races was removed for the work. Orseno said his colt bit the tip of his tongue in the paddock before the Derby and might have done it because he was fiddling with the tongue tie. There was enough blood in Thunder Blitz's mouth after the Derby for it to be reflected in the footnote of the chart.

Hero's work

Hero's Tribute, who finished last in the Blue Grass Stakes last time out, worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 Friday morning at Pimlico in preparation for next Saturday's $200,000 Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park.

Although an endoscopic examination performed after the work revealed a little bit of a lung infection, according to trainer John Ward, Hero's Tribute, is "still on track as far as I'm concerned," Ward said. "A lot of horses get these light mucus touches."

According to Pimlico clockers, Hero's Tribute, under exercise rider Bryan Beccia, got his last quarter in 24.40 seconds. His final time was the second fastest of 24 moves over the track, which yielded slow times all morning.

"Probably a pretty good move over this thing," said Ward, who caught Hero's Tribute galloping out six furlongs in 1:15, seven-eighths in 1:28, and a mile in 1:44.

Hero's Tribute opened up an old quarter crack on his left front foot in the Blue Grass. He has been equipped with a Z-shaped bar shoe to protect the foot. Hero's Tribute worked with the bar shoe on, but Ward doesn't anticipate running him in the race with it.

Ward plans to ship Hero's Tribute along with Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness favorite Monarchos to Belmont Park on Wednesday or Thursday. Ward said Jorge Chavez would ride Hero's Tribute in the Peter Pan.

o Balto Star, who pressed the pace for six furlongs in the Kentucky Derby before tiring and finishing 14th, is possible to start in the

1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, trainer Todd Pletcher said Friday. Pletcher said Balto Star suffered from a mild case of heat exhaustion after the Derby, but has rebounded in the two weeks following the race. If Balto Star starts in the Belmont, he will join stablemate Invisible Ink, who finished second in the Derby.

- additional reporting by David Grening