01/10/2002 1:00AM

Patience should pay off in Skip Away


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Patience and Red Bullet run as an entry.

Trainer Joe Orseno demonstrated his understanding of this relationship when Red Bullet was a 3-year-old in the spring of 2000. Orseno needed a little more time with Red Bullet and skipped the Kentucky Derby to wait for the Preakness, two weeks later. His opinion was certified when Red Bullet upset the heavily favored Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus at Pimlico.

Patience has continued to play a key role in Red Bullet's career. A few weeks following the Preakness he suffered a setback that cost him a year and severely limited his 4-year-old campaign. Once again, Orseno took a patient approach, and this weekend he learns if there will be another payoff. An Unbridled horse, now a 5-year-old, Red Bullet will be favored under Jerry Bailey in Saturday's $150,000 Skip Away Handicap, a stepping-stone to the $500,000 Donn Handicap on Feb. 9

"He's been training very nicely and we think he is ready for a strong campaign," Orseno said. "He's not at his peak but he's ready to give a good account of himself, and the Skip Away should bring him up to the Donn the right way."

On the basis of his Preakness triumph, Red Bullet was the 3-5 choice for the Dwyer of 2000 but came out of that race a sick horse.

"We never received a definitive diagnosis," Orsero said, "but indications pointed to a severe viral infection. His joints stiffened up and he wasn't very comfortable. We decided to give him time to overcome the problem. There were some lesser problems, too, and it took a full year to have him right."

Red Bullet came back with a win at Saratoga, but disappointed in the Woodward at Belmont, a track he appears to dislike. He was much more sure of himself in the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 24, his last start. Bumped leaving the gate, he lost position but finished well to be third in a race dominated by Left Bank, who wasn't stopping.

Red Bullet showed his true quality in the Preakness. Some poor luck has compromised much of his subsequent form, but he appears to be right again. If he is, the Skip Away could be the start of a victory parade.

Better yet to come

Light entries have been the rule during Gulfstream's opening week, but track president Scott Savin feels the situation will straighten out in short order. He notes that Calder's programs for the final week averaged 11 races per card, and the Calder stables, which usually produce half the entries at Gulfstream, are not ready to do so at the moment.

He feels the normal flow of entries will resume shortly.

The remarkable attendance of almost 30,000 last Saturday for the opening of Gulfstream's popular concert series also produced a few problems involving traffic and security. Traffic patterns will be adjusted to alleviate problem areas, and an express lane will be established to make it easier for horsemen to get from the stable area to the paddock.

Savin is pleased with the response to the concert series. He notes that those attending the concerts average $25 in wagering, much lower than the per capita of dedicated patrons. He emphasizes that this is only a starting point and is confident that some concertgoers will become regulars for the racing at Gulfstream in due course.

* Richard "Thunder" Rosen, for many years a Daily Racing Form clocker at south Florida tracks, died Wednesday at 66 after a lengthy battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Well liked and respected throughout the industry as a top professional, he will be missed.