03/04/2007 12:00AM

Corinthian won't be denied

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - This time, Corinthian gets to keep his Gulfstream Park stakes win.

One year after being disqualified from first place in the Fountain of Youth Stakes here, Corinthian hung on for a neck victory over Hesanoldsalt in the Grade 2, $350,000 Gulfstream Park Handicap for his first official career stakes win. Remembering what happened last year when Corinthian veered in on two horses in the stretch of the Fountain of Youth, trainer Jimmy Jerkens was nervous after Corinthian held off Hesanoldsalt at the wire.

"I was asking everybody if he drifted out," Jerkens said. "Last year, I couldn't tell watching the pan shot, and it was blatant."

There was no reason for concern Saturday. Under Javier Castellano, Corinthian stalked the pacesetting Noble Causeway through fractions of 24.18 seconds, 48.20, and 1:12.25. Corinthian took over from Noble Causeway around the turn and appeared to open up approaching the quarter pole.

According to Castellano, Corinthian began to wait on horses turning for home, and Hesanoldsalt was coming under Rafael Bejarano. Though the inside part of the track was the best, Bejarano guided Hesanoldsalt off the rail for the stretch drive, saying that Hesanoldsalt wasn't comfortable being down on the inside.

Corinthian opened up again in the stretch, but Hesanoldsalt was resurgent and kept coming, only to fall just short. It was another half-length back to A. P. Arrow in third. Noble Causeway, Rehoboth and Summer Book completed the order of finish.

Corinthian, a 4-year-old son of Pulpit owned by the Centennial Farm, covered the 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.06 and returned $4 as the even-money favorite.

"He hesitated a little bit at the top of the stretch,'" Castellano said. "That's the only concern. If you move too soon he hangs out and waits for the horses. But he was much calmer and more relaxed in the gate, super. He saw that horse coming at the sixteenth [pole], and he took off again."

Jerkens said that Corinthian, who was brilliant winning an allowance race earlier this meet, would ship back to New York in about three weeks and could possibly point to the Grade 2, $200,000 Excelsior Handicap at Aqueduct on April 7.

For trainer Nick Zito, it was another second-place finish in a graded stakes. Since Jan. 1, 2006, Zito horses have finished second in 11 graded events. Earlier this meet, Hesanoldsalt finished second in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap.

Bejarano, said Zito, "said he hesitated when he went inside," Zito said. "It's very frustrating. So many second-place finishes, I can't count."