03/01/2007 1:00AM

Corinthian has the chance to take it up another notch


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Corinthian has come full circle.

In February 2006, Corinthian beat then-maiden winner Jazil in a first-level allowance race at Gulfstream Park and returned on the first Saturday in March to finish first in the Fountain of Youth, thus becoming a major contender on the Triple Crown trail. Corinthian was disqualified from first for interference in the Fountain of Youth and subsequently fell off the Derby trail when he suffered a hind left ankle fracture. A persistent skin disease in the summer basically ended Corinthian's 3-year-old campaign.

Fast-forward to February 2007. Corinthian beats Jazil, now a Belmont Stakes winner, in a second-level allowance at Gulfstream. Saturday, on the undercard of the Fountain of Youth, Corinthian will try to become an elite member of the handicap division when he runs in the Grade 2, $350,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Corinthian was brilliant last month, running away from Jazil in the last quarter-mile to win by 9 1/2 lengths and earn a Beyer Speed Figure of 106. While he won't be facing the upper echelon of the division on Saturday, the Gulfstream Park Handicap, run at 1 3/16 miles, will be a good test for Corinthian, who is coming back on 23 days' rest.

"I like the fact that he doesn't have to run against Invasor," Corinthian's trainer, Jimmy Jerkens, said, referring to the defending Horse of the Year. "But Hesanoldsalt is tough. He already beat Corinthian, and you could say, 'Well, Corinthian wasn't as good as he was now.' You could say the same thing about Hesanoldsalt. He's gritty, he's running great down here, he's in good shape, he's going to be tough."

Corinthian, who will break from post 3 under Javier Castellano, will be tough as well. Or, as Frank Brothers, the trainer of Gulfstream Park Handicap entrant Summer Book put it: "Corinthian, if he can run that race back or better, they're all going to be in trouble."

Summer Book, the runner-up in the Sunshine Millions Classic, could be the pacesetter in the Gulfstream Park Handicap, with Corinthian stalking him.

Hesanoldsalt and A.P. Arrow finished heads apart when second and third behind Invasor in the Donn Handicap. Hesanoldsalt, trained by Nick Zito, will break from the rail under Rafael Bejarano and figures to be in a stalking position.

Todd Pletcher, the trainer of A.P. Arrow, is hoping his horse has a better trip than he had in the Donn, when he got stuck behind horses around the turn, then had to swing wide for the stretch drive.

"He was sort of bottled up in the same traffic jam Invasor was in," Pletcher said. "I think it probably cost him second. A mile and three-sixteenths should help him. He's an improving horse that is capable of winning one of these."

Pletcher said A.P. Arrow is the type of horse who needs to be ridden aggressively. John Velazquez, who rode the horse to his most recent win last summer, has the call from post 6.

"He just needs to make sure he doesn't get too far out of it," Pletcher said.

Noble Causeway, who has finished first or second in 7 of 8 Gulfstream starts, and longshot Rehoboth complete the field.