01/01/2003 1:00AM

Unveiling of the new 'Fuse'


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - The 3-year-olds.

In pursuit of the Triple Crown classics, they dominate the scene during the first half of every racing season. Gulfstream Park, which opens Friday, is fortunate that its racing dates parallel much of that period. Its feature races often spotlight future stars of the division, and the $100,000 Spectacular Bid, highlight of the inaugural card, attracted an interesting cast headed by the genuinely rapid Super Fuse, who has no less than 15 owners.

There are many aspects to the Gulfstream opening, most dealing with new developments and approaches. The Palm Meadows training center adds about 700 horses to the inventory, and to the prospects for fuller fields. The $3.6 million Sunshine Millions, a fresh, competitive concept involving quality horses from Florida and California, is set for Jan. 25. A Bettors Box, constructed on the second floor of the grandstand, will offer weekday commentary by handicapping experts.

A Gulfstream Park Advantage Club has been organized to reward frequent bettors with prizes such as a free trip to the Kentucky Derby.

The Spectacular Bid, one of the first milestones on the way to the Derby, will be an opportunity to see the "new" Super Fuse. Not that there was much wrong with the old Super Fuse, who won 4 of 5 starts last year, including the Huntington at Aqueduct in mid-November. The Huntington triumph attracted attention. He won with authority and posted a three-digit Beyer Speed Figure.

"He's not the same horse," trainer Richard Ciardullo Jr. said. "He has developed physically over the past month and is a more mature individual. He's been training very nicely at Calder, which has a deeper strip than Gulfstream, and I expect him to do well on Friday."

Super Fuse, by the top-class sprinter Lite the Fuse, was bred by Frank Stronach, owner of Gulfstream Park, and was sold at his Adena Springs Farm in Ocala, Fla., last spring for $38,000. The buyer was Chris Thomas, a sports radio personality in the Tampa area. Thomas put together a syndicate with 14 other partners to race Super Fuse and it looks like they found a bargain.

Super Fuse won his maiden at Calder in early August, winning at first asking by almost five lengths. Shipped to Delaware Park for the NATC Futurity, for which he was favored, he stumbled badly leaving the gate and almost unseated jockey Carlos Gonzalez. Super Fuse rebounded with two victories, and Ciardullo was encouraged to send him to New York for the Huntington.

Ciardullo is a graduate of Louisiana Tech University, which at one time offered a racing industry degree somewhat similar to the program at the University of Arizona. He took out a trainer's license upon graduation in 1989, and has built a reputation and a business. He made his headquarters in Tampa but has relocated to Miami while retaining a division of his public stable at Tampa Bay Downs.

While Super Fuse's pedigree says speed, he knows how to reserve it, according to his trainer.

"I don't know whether he will stay," Ciardullo said, "but we're not concerned with that at this time. The objective now is the Spectacular Bid, and if he passes that test we'll consider the seven-furlong Hutcheson. We've mapped out a campaign and will go from step to step, as long as he shows us he is comfortable."