05/29/2007 12:00AM

Corinthian holds on to win Met Mile

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Corinthian wins Monday's Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park, his third win in four starts this year.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Corinthian's ascension through the ranks of the handicap division is back on track after the talented but temperamental colt held on for a three-quarter-length victory in Monday's Grade 1, $600,000 Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park.

Racing four wide but close to the pace from the get-go, Corinthian took over from Latent Heat turning for home and then held off a late run from Political Force, who took a whip in the face from Edgar Prado, the rider of Lawyer Ron. Political Force got second by a half-length over Lawyer Ron, the 8-5 favorite.

Sun King, second in this race last year, finished fourth and was followed in the order of finish by Latent Heat, Silver Wagon, Half Ours, Silent Name - who stumbled badly at the break - and Mr. Umphrey.

The victory was the third in four starts this year and the fifth from nine career starts for Corinthian, a

4-year-old son of Pulpit owned by Centennial Farms and trained by Jimmy Jerkens. Jerkens is the son of Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, who trained runner-up Political Force.

The win enabled Corinthian, who won the Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap in March, to bounce back from a fifth-place finish in the Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap, a race in which he leapt at the break and never really threatened thereafter. Jerkens said Corinthian was too quiet that day anyway, an indication he wouldn't have run well.

A week before the Met Mile, Corinthian worked a brilliant five furlongs in 58 seconds, an indication to Jerkens that Corinthian was sitting on a big race.

"I never had a horse do what he did last week here," said Jerkens, who clocked Corinthian going six furlongs in 1:09 and change. "He ran to his work."

Breaking from post 8 under Kent Desormeaux, Corinthian raced four wide but close to the pace, which was contested among Mr. Umphrey, Half Ours, and Latent Heat. The fractions were a modest 23.21 seconds, 45.70, and 1:10.20.

Leaving the five-sixteenths pole, Latent Heat had a short lead. But straightening away down the lane, Corinthian forged to the front. Jerkens was quite confident Corinthian had Lawyer Ron, but was a bit concerned when he saw his father's horse, Political Force, rallying.

"I said 'Oh my God, here comes the Chief,'" Jerkens said, referring to his father's nickname. "I don't believe it."

But Corinthian held on, covering the one mile in 1:34.77 and returning $21.60 to win.

"Coming to the three-eighths pole, he kind of got into gear and acted as if he wanted to go for the wire," Desormeaux said. "That was the only time I restrained him and told him 'No, not yet.' Finally when the horses engaged, he jumped back in the bridle. I didn't have to ask him much, he knew it was time to go."

Prado said Lawyer Ron had a perfect trip, "just the horse in front kept on running hard at the end."

* Commentator, the 2005 Whitney Handicap winner, made a smashing 6-year-old debut Monday, winning the $65,350 Richmond Runner Stakes for New York-breds by 11 1/4 lengths. In his first start since finishing 10th in the Forego last September, Commentator covered 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.69 and returned $2.30 to win.

* There is a pick six carryover of $262,675 entering Thursday's card.