12/13/2003 1:00AM

Thunder Blitz gets the job done


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - A one-week postponement of the Queens County Handicap may have toughened the competition, but none of that fazed Thunder Blitz.

Despite trying to lug in during the stretch run, Thunder Blitz pulled away from pacesetting Unforgettable Max in the final furlong and drew clear to a 1 1/2-length victory in the Grade 3, $108,300 Queens County before 7,732 on Stocking Stuffer giveaway day at Aqueduct.

Evening Attire, the even-money favorite, finished second, a head in front of Seattle Fitz. Neither Evening Attire nor Seattle Fitz - both of who ran in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28 - was entered on Dec. 6 when the Queens County was originally scheduled to be run. But the race was postponed a week because of a snowstorm.

No one wanted the early lead in the Queens County, but Unforgettable Max, under Javier Castellano, took it entering the first turn. He set fractions of 24.46 seconds, 49.05, 1:13.43 and 1:37.80. Jorge Chavez had Thunder Blitz stalking from second position and they collared Unforgettable Max around the far turn. The two ran together until midstretch when Thunder Blitz pulled away.

Richard Dutrow, trainer of Thunder Blitz, said he would have preferred the Queens County was run when scheduled, but as the race unfolded, he felt confident.

"I was enjoying the whole trip," Dutrow said. "I felt like I was on him. When that speed horse cleared him, Jorge set up camp and just outlasted him."

Thunder Blitz ($11.80), a 5-year-old son of Holy Bull owned by Frank Stronach, covered the 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.90 over a fast track.

Evening Attire, who was spotting nine pounds to the winner, raced closer to the front than normal because of the slow pace.

"No pace to run at," jockey Shaun Bridgmohan said. "He had to be a little closer. With this quality of field, you can't let them get away with slow fractions or you're dead at the end."

Dutrow said Thunder Blitz would most likely run back in the Grade 3, $100,000 Aqueduct Handicap Jan. 17.

Balmy upsets Garland of Roses

One day after Fox Hill Farm and trainer John Servis won the Mom's Command Stakes with favored Stephan's Angel, that same owner-trainer combination teamed up to upset the $76,800 Garland of Roses Handicap with longshot Balmy.

Under Stewart Elliott, Balmy dueled early with Bruanna, took control at the quarter pole, and held off a late charge from Gazillion to win by a head. It was another four lengths back to Bonefide Reason. Wilzada, the 9-5 favorite, was never a factor and finished seventh in the nine-horse field.

Balmy, a daughter of Salt Lake, covered the six furlongs in 1:11.32. Sent off at 25-1, Balmy returned $53.50 to win.

Elliott said he did not mind being involved in a speed duel, especially when the half-mile time went in a moderate 47.09 seconds.

"She's always close, and it didn't look like there was much speed in there," Elliott said. "She came out of there running, but down the backside I knew I had horse, and I said they're going to have to run to catch me."