11/18/2002 12:00AM

Thunderello's good-bye?

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LAUREL, Md. - Although Thunderello did not, as initially feared, re-tear the suspensory ligament in his left foreleg while being pulled up in Saturday's Grade 1 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash over a sloppy Laurel Park main track, the injuries he did suffer could force him to retire.

Trainer Scott Lake said Monday that Thunderello fractured the splint bone in his left foreleg and also chipped off a "pretty nice-size piece'' of the sesamoid bone. Lake said he and owner Charles Mady were to send the X-rays to another veterinarian for a second opinion, but added that Thunderello's racing career was very much in jeopardy.

"The sesamoid isn't a positive thing, but the fractured splint bone is better than the suspensory," Lake said.

Last year, following the second start of his career, Thunderello suffered a tear of the suspensory ligament in his left foreleg and was away from the races for one year. He returned in September, finishing second in an allowance race at Saratoga. On Sept. 21, he won an allowance race at Belmont, and came back two weeks later to win the Gallant Bob Handicap at Philadelphia Park.

Thunderello made it into the Breeders' Cup Sprint from the also-eligible list and nearly wired the field at 48-1 before being run down late by favored Orientate. He was beaten a half-length.

Thunderello, a son of Montbrook, went off the even-money favorite in Saturday's De Francis, and was sitting a good trip under Edgar Prado before being pulled up around the turn.

Lake said he initially was kicking himself for not scratching Thunderello out of the race due to the sloppy track, until he saw the X-rays.

"I honestly believe it had nothing to do with the track," said Lake, who noted the injury could have occurred over a fast track. "Prado said he was going comfortably and handling the track great. He said his next step he felt wasn't as good as the step before so he grabbed a hold of him."

Meanwhile, De Francis winner D'wildcat came out of the race in good shape, according to trainer Bob Hess Jr. D'wildcat was scheduled to arrive in California on Tuesday morning.

Hess had no specific plans for D'wildcat, except to keep him running in one-turn dirt races and retain Jorge Chavez as his regular rider. Possible next start for D'wildcat is the $200,000 Palos Verdes at Santa Anita on Jan. 26 or the $200,000 General George Handicap at Laurel on Feb. 17. Both are Grade 2 stakes.

Magic Weisner recovering

Magic Weisner, the Preakness runner-up and Ohio Derby winner, has been turned out at a farm in Sykesville, Md., where he is showing signs of improvement after having been hit with a serious case of West Nile Virus.

Magic Weisner still suffers from muscle atrophy - his right hip muscle is sunken in - but he otherwise appears to be making progress toward a return to racing in 2003.

"I don't have any doubt myself with the way he's improved the last two weeks," said owner-trainer Nancy Alberts when asked about Magic Weisner coming back.

Magic Weisner is at Triple S Farm, a facility owned by John Salzman, the trainer of Xtra Heat, whose barn is next to Alberts's at Laurel. Magic Weisner has been at Salzman's farm for nearly two weeks and runs in an outdoor paddock with a couple of other geldings.

"He looks better in his hair and everything seems to be coming along," said Tim Salzman, assistant trainer for his father, John. "We turn him out most of the day in a 10- to 15-acre paddock. He's been there 10 days and you can see him getting

better.''

"The muscle over his back is sunken in. ``It's going to take a little time. But, he's jumping and playing.''

Alberts had Magic Weisner entered in the Pennsylvania Derby at Philadelphia Park on Sept. 2. Three days before the race, Magic Weisner came down with a fever. By Sept. 2, Magic Weisner's condition had worsened and he was vanned to the New Bolton Clinic outside Philadelphia where he was diagnosed with West Nile Virus. After a two-week stay at New Bolton, Magic Weisner returned to Laurel.