01/12/2005 12:00AM

Derby Day dreams

Gary Rothstein/ EQUI-PHOTO
High Fly scores big with his nine-length victory - and 100 Beyer Speed Figure - in the Aventura.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - As so often happens during the Gulfstream Park winter meet it didn't take long for a new 3-year-old star to emerge and talk of Kentucky Derby aspirations to begin. And as was the case a year ago, the latest hot newcomer comes from just down the road at Calder Race Course.

Last winter Second of June became the early season 3-year-old sensation following his outstanding performance winning the Holy Bull Stakes. Last weekend the Calder-based High Fly followed in Second of June's footsteps with perhaps an even more impressive, nine-length triumph in the one-mile Aventura Stakes.

High Fly, a son of Atticus trained by Bill White, has not been seriously challenged in any of his three starts. He earned Beyer Speed Figures in the 90's for his maiden and first-level allowance wins at Calder before running a new career high of 100 in the Aventura.

"He ran fast but I really didn't know who he beat in his first two races at Calder, so when you come across town and run against a group like he did on Saturday, some of whom have already had some success in stakes races, it becomes a different ballgame," said White. "I knew going in he'd be competitive and had a chance to win but that performance was beyond anything I expected."

White said High Fly's itinerary is uncertain.

"Obviously, our primary object here this winter will be the Florida Derby, so the thought process becomes how to get him from the Aventura to the Kentucky Derby," said White. "The two major races in between are the Holy Bull and Fountain of Youth, and I'd be hesitant to try to run in both of those. Right now I'm leaning more towards skipping the Holy Bull and focusing on the Fountain of Youth."

The main objective for White is to keep High Fly healthy and avoid the injury bug that has plagued the Calder runners who proceeded him on the Kentucky Derby trail the past two winters. Second of June and Silver Wagon both dropped out of the picture a year ago after suffering injuries in the Fountain of Youth. In 2003, Fountain of Youth winner Trust N Luck also developed a problem - after his second-place finish in the Florida Derby and a fourth in the Lexington at Keeneland.

"I think what makes High Fly different than some of the good Calder horses in the past is that he came to the races at the right time, late in his 2-year-old campaign, and as a result he will be a lot fresher horse during the winter and spring," said White.

Dearest Mon draws attention, too

High Fly wasn't the only 3-year-old who might have put himself on the Derby trail here Saturday. Earlier in the day, Dearest Mon rallied to win a first-level allowance race going seven furlongs for his second victory in three starts. A son of Maria's Mon, Dearest Mon is trained by Rick Violette, who won the Fountain of Youth a year ago with Read the Footnotes.

"I thought he ran an exceptional race on Saturday," said Violette. "I expected him to put Jerry [Bailey] in a better spot closer to the pace but he broke a bit flat-footed and wasn't on the bridle during the early stages of the race. As a result Jerry had to put him in a drive from the five-eighths pole to catch the leader - and to his credit, the colt showed a lot of grit, especially after racing greenly, before finally getting his act together in the final furlong."

Violette said Dearest Mon will stretch out around two turns for his next start, but he isn't sure whether that will be in an allowance race or if he'll go right into the Holy Bull on Feb. 5.

"This was a hard race so he probably won't come back for another four or five weeks," said Violette. "It's still pretty early but I think he might be Derby material. It will be interesting to see how he handles two turns."

Turf course opens for works

Changing World became the first horse to work over the new turf course, breezing about a mile in 1:39.40 under jockey Edgar Prado on Wednesday. Judging the exact distance of the work was difficult with the dogs set out approximately 80 feet over a course that measure seven furlongs from the inside rail.

Changing World is coming off a third-place finish in Calder's Grade 3 My Charmer Handicap. She faltered in the final furlong of that race after setting extremely fast fractions and opening up a lead of nearly 12 lengths in the mid-stages of the race.

"I thought she went brilliantly," said Robin Smullen, assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg. "She's prepping for the Sunshine Millions, and we wanted to get a good mile under her over the turf, far enough out from the race in case she didn't settle. She's going to have to relax a little better if she's going to get a mile and one-eighth in her next start. But she seemed to relax much better than usual this morning."