02/14/2007 12:00AM

Corinthian seems the real deal

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LAS VEGAS - Invasor, Discreet Cat, and Lava Man, the three best older racehorses in training, have to contend with a new player. Corinthian is actually not a new player, but a stronger, healthier version of the 3-year-old who was on the Triple Crown trail before an injury sidelined him for most of 2006.

Most people remember Corinthian as "Peck's bad boy," the colt who clearly finished first in the Fountain of Youth Stakes last year but was disqualified to third for running erratically in the stretch and bothering First Samurai and Flashy Bull.

Corinthian made his 4-year-old debut on Feb. 8 in a weekday optional claiming race that also featured last year's Belmont Stakes winner, Jazil. Because Jazil had a decided edge in recency, having finished a closing second to a front-runner over Aqueduct's inner-dirt highway, the public made him the 4-5 favorite over 2-1 Corinthian, who was making his first start since a lackluster third in an allowance at Saratoga last July 29.

One look at Corinthian in the paddock and post parade, and it was immediately clear that this was not the cantankerous and immature colt seen at Gulfstream nearly one year ago. Warming up and walking to the gate, Corinthian cut a striking figure on the track and looked like a powerhouse.

As the gate opened, Corinthian was immediately into the bit and was lapped on front-runner King of Jazz through moderate fractions of 23.95 and 47.95 seconds. As Corinthian moved to the lead, Jazil made a bold middle move from sixth in the seven-horse field, splitting King of Jazz and Corinthian and looking like the winner. But jockey Javier Castellano let out a notch aboard Corinthian and the flashy chestnut left Jazil in the dust, quickly opening up five lengths and coasting home to a 9 1/2-length victory in a spectacular performance. Corinthian's final time for the nine furlongs was 1:48.04, just .27 of a second off the track record.

With this tour-de-force, Corinthian appears to be on his way to fulfilling the talent he flashed early in his career. If this race is a true indicator of his ability, Corinthian has a serious opportunity to vie for championship honors by year's end.

Potent pedigree top and bottom

Corinthian is by Pulpit, who was from the first crop of A.P. Indy, a son of Seattle Slew. Pulpit, unraced at 2, burst onto the racing scene as a flashy 3-year-old at Gulfstream, winning his first three starts, a seven-furlong maiden race by 7 1/2 lengths, an allowance at 1 1/16 miles by 6 3/4 lengths, and the Fountain of Youth Stakes. He was second to the more experienced Captain Bodgit in the Florida Derby, but rebounded to win the Blue Grass Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths in his final prep for the 1997 Kentucky Derby. Despite fracturing a knee in the Derby, which forced his early retirement, Pulpit finished a courageous fourth behind Silver Charm, Captain Bodgit, and Free House.

Pulpit has been a remarkably versatile stallion, getting high-class winners on dirt and turf. His stakes winners include Purge, Stroll, Sky Mesa, Tapit, Essence of Dubai, Wend, Oratory, Laity, and Passport. Corinthian may turn out to be Pulpit's best offspring.

Corinthian's female family is as significant as his sire line. His unraced dam, Multiply, is by deceased champion Easy Goer, and from a Claiborne Farm female line of exceptional class. A half-brother to the stakes winner Desert Hero, Corinthian's second dam, Add, is by Horse of the Year Spectacular Bid, and his third dam, stakes winner Number (Nijinsky II), was a three-quarter sister to champion racehorse and sire Nureyev, as well as a full sister to stakes winner Bound. Number was also a half-sister to stakes winner Fairy Bridge, the dam of champion racehorse and stallion Sadler's Wells.

And there's much, much more to this stakes-producing female family, which is regarded as one of the elite tail-female families in the Stud Book. Corinthian's fifth dam, Thong, was a stakes-placed full sister to the more accomplished Moccasin (champion 2-year-old filly and co-Horse of the Year), Ridan, and Lt. Stevens, but she was the most important member of her family because her daughters and granddaughters were responsible for producing Nureyev and Sadler's Wells.

Champions Gamely and Apalachee are direct descendants of this line that trace to matriarch Rough Shod II. Other notable runners from this family include Drumtop, Hail Atlantis (and her son Stormy Atlantic and grandson Bandini), Gambetta, Staretta, Geiger Counter, Cutlass, Sitzmark, King Pellinore, Thatch, Regal Humor, Bayou Hebert, and Table the Rumor.

It seems certain that Corinthian will add a stakes win to his resume, and along with his imposing pedigree, that would make Corinthian an outstanding stallion prospect upon his retirement.

Mark down Feb. 8, 2007 as the day that transformed Corinthian from a colt with untapped talent into an exciting and superior racehorse.