05/06/2002 11:00PM

Talented Lake colt returns to races

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Thunderello showed trainer Scott Lake so much promise last year, he said, that it almost didn't matter that he and owner Charles Mady turned down a $2 million offer only days before the colt tore the suspensory ligament in his left foreleg.

"It's scary how good I think he could be," Lake said last September. `"Richard Migliore told me he's one of the best 2-year-olds he's been on in his life."

Thursday, at Belmont Park, Lake, Mady, and Migliore will begin to find out just how good a 3-year-old Thunderello can be when he returns to the races in an intriguing entry-level allowance race at six furlongs. A field of 10 was entered including Draw Play and Pinch Hitter, two of the more impressive maiden-winning juveniles here last summer.

Thunderello had the misfortune of running into Mayakovsky in his debut at Saratoga, finishing second, beaten only 1 1/4 lengths in what was a track record time for 5 1/2 furlongs.

Thunderello made his second start on Sept. 1 at Saratoga, romping to a 14 1/2-length maiden score in 1:03.40, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 99. Thunderello was entered in the Belmont Futurity, a race canceled in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center that shut down New York racing for a week. When racing resumed, Thunderello was injured.

No surgery was required and Thunderello was turned out on Robert Scanlon's farm in Ocala, Fla. for two months. He has been in Lake's Belmont barn for the last two months.

"He should be pretty fit," Lake said. "He's not the type of horse that holds up to drilling every five or six days. Migliore worked him two works ago and said he could have went in 58 [seconds] if he let him. He went in 1:01, and he really finished strong."

Draw Play makes his second start of the year, after missing by a head at this allowance condition on April 7. As a 2-year-old over this track, Draw Play defeated Proud Citizen by a neck in perhaps the best juvenile maiden race run at Belmont last spring. Draw Play picks up the services of Jerry Bailey for the first time.

Bailey replaces John Velazquez, who replaces Shaun Bridgmohan aboard Pinch Hitter. In his debut on May 10, 2001, Pinch Hitter defeated Draw Play by two lengths. After finishing fourth in the Tremont, Pinch Hitter was injured and went to the sidelines. He returns bringing an impressive work tab for trainer John Terranova, and will run on Lasix for the first time.

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