Updated on 09/16/2011 7:04AM

Well-kept secret Thunder Blitz on card


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Saturday will be a big day for trainer Joe Orseno, who not only sends out as the likely favorite in the Grade 1 Gulfstream Park Handicap but in the following race will saddle Thunder Blitz for his much anticipated 2002 debut.

"The two best kept secrets of the meet were Thunder Blitz and Macho Uno," Orseno said jokingly after entries were drawn for Saturday, referring to the fact he was able to get allowance races to fill for both his handicap stars. Macho Uno won his 4-year-old debut under allowance conditions here last weekend.

Thunder Blitz has not started since finishing third behind Western Pride in the West Virginia Derby on Aug. 11 at Mountaineer Park. Earlier in the season Thunder Blitz, a homebred son of Holy Bull, finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby following an easy victory in the Grade 3 Flamingo Stakes.

"He ran up to Western Pride like he was going to win the West Virginia Derby," Orseno said. "He didn't hang, he came back with his foot bleeding and a quarter crack that forced us to stop on him for the remainder of the season. [It] was probably a blessing in disguise because the extra time has really done him well. I always felt he'd be a better 4-year-old than a 3-year-old, and I'm seeing all those signs right now. He's been training magnificent, and I'll use the race on Saturday as a stepping-stone to whatever I pick out next, although I have nothing planned at the time."

As for Red Bullet, Orseno is confident the 2000 Preakness winner is ready to score his first victory since he defeated allowance company last July at Saratoga.

"The Bullet is ready to be fired," Orseno said. "He's as good now as he was before the Preakness. With a little racing luck he could have won both his races here. In the Donn everything that could go wrong went wrong and anybody who saw the race knows he was the best horse that day. The shame of it is he should have already won a Grade 1 race this year which would have taken off a lot of the pressure I apply on myself."

Red Bullet was beaten a neck by Mongoose in the Donn, following a very slow start. He was ultimately disqualified and placed fourth for interfering with Rize on the far turn.

From the fire to the frying pan

Bonus Pack, who had originally been listed as a prospective starter for the Gulfstream Park Handicap if the field wound up five horses or less, was withdrawn from consideration after trainer Angel Medina entered American Halo in the race.

Trainer Tom Proctor had what looked like the perfect spot as a back up for Bonus Pack only to wind up in the same second level optional claiming/allowance race as Thunder Blitz, who figures to be an odds-on favorite in his return.

Free of Love heads to New York

Free of Love, who finished sixth, beaten six lengths by Mongoose in the Donn, worked six furlongs in 1:15.80 here Thursday morning, then boarded a van on Friday for New York.

"His work today [Thursday] was nothing more than an open gallop, just something to take the edge off before he gets on the van," trainer Rick Violette said. "Right now I have no definite plans for him once he gets to New York."

March Magic works for 2002 debut

Earlier this week Violette worked his top female handicap runner March Magic an easy half mile, as she moves closer to her 2002 debut.

"She gets fit fast and is on the threshold of returning," Violette said. "She's only a couple of weeks away, and I wouldn't mind running her down here before I leave. One of these mornings I'll send her out to work five furlongs in 1:01, she'll go in 59 and change, and I'll know she's ready."

Call it the Grade 1 Jerry Bailey

When jockey Jerry Bailey takes Red Bullet to post for the Gulfstream Park Handicap he will be shooting for an unprecedented eighth victory in that Grade 1 event.

Bailey won his first Gulfstream Park Handicap in 1977 aboard Strike Me Lucky for trainer Neil Winick. He won again in 1988, aboard Jade Hunter, in 1990 with Mi Selecto, and then four consecutive times, from 1995 through 1998, with Cigar, Wekiva Springs, Mt. Sassafras, and Skip Away.

- Sir Bear will attempt Saturday to become only the fourth horse to win back-to-back editions of the Gulfstream Park Handicap. Behrens (1999-2000), Skip Trial (1986-87) and Crafty Admiral (1952-53) are the only others to accomplish that feat.