11/20/2002 12:00AM

Super Fuse lighting up horse-lover's life


PHILADELPHIA - Growing up in North Jersey, Chris Thomas became fascinated with horse racing. He spent many days at the old Garden State Park and Monmouth Park. He became a top sportscaster in several markets, including Baltimore and, more recently, Tampa.

Thomas covered every sport, but horse racing was always his first love. In the 1980's, he owned some cheap claimers in Maryland. He once finished second in the World Series of Handicapping at Penn National. He used to cover the Kentucky Derby every year for his Tampa television station.

Still, he dreamed of playing the game at a different level. His dream became real when he started C.T. Stable. With trainer Richard Ciardullo at his side, Thomas purchased five 2-year-olds for $143,000 this April at the Adena Springs Sale. Thomas runs the stable, which has 14 investors.

He is off to a start that even he could not have envisioned. Almost as soon as 33-1 Super Fuse won his maiden at Calder on Aug. 3 and earned a 99 Beyer, offers began to pour in for more than the stable had spent on the five horses. After much negotiation, a sale was never consummated.

Super Fuse ran again at Delaware Park on Aug 31 in a $200,000 stakes. He was 6-5, but stumbled at the start and faded badly in the stretch to finish fifth.

Perhaps, the horse was just a one-race wonder. Wrong.

Super Fuse has not lost since. He was good in an allowance win at Calder and phenomenal in the Birdonethewire Stakes at Calder, when he got another 99 Beyer. His move from the half-mile pole into the stretch was awesome.

Perhaps, he was just a Calder horse. Wrong.

On Sunday, Super Fuse was the second choice in the rain and slop and cold at Aqueduct when the horses entered the gate for the Huntington Stakes. He attended a pretty quick pace and then, just like he had done at Calder, he blew the race open on the turn. He was up by six lengths at the eighth pole and cruised home by more than three lengths. He got a 101 Beyer.

By Light the Fuse, Super Fuse does not have the look of a classic horse. But he is fast. And you can't teach fast.

Carlos Gonzalez has ridden Super Fuse in all of his starts. Thomas has heard from agents for big-name jockeys. He has stayed with Gonzalez.

Another colt in the five-horse group, one that was purchased for $23,000, has already won $30,000. None of the three fillies has won yet, but only two of them have started. One bled in her first start and had a knee chip. Another has started once and likely will end up in claiming races. Another will start opening day at Tampa Bay Downs. Thomas promised that "she'll win by 10."

Whatever the others do, there is always Super Fuse.

"He can carry everything," Thomas said.

Years ago, Thomas befriended a New Jersey jockey named Tommy Cimino. They stayed close through the years. Cimino was diagnosed with cancer several years ago.

"He should have died a year and half ago," Thomas said. "He had the most amazing will to live of any person I've ever seen. The first day he looked at Super Fuse in June, he said 'that's your stakes horse.' He fell in love with him."

Cimino died very early Sunday morning in a Tampa hospital.

"I held his hand on Friday and I said my goodbyes to him," Thomas said. "I told him that if he wanted to go before the race, it was okay. In fact, he could go help Carlos ride the horse. He squeezed my hand tight twice."