03/06/2006 12:00AM

Derby favorite simply fabulous

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His decisive win in the Santa Catalina, worth a 102 Beyer, solidified Brother Derek's credentials as the nation's leading Kentucky Derby prospect.

ARCADIA, Calif. - A victory in the Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday, combined with the unsatisfying conclusion of the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream, further solidified Brother Derek's position as the current favorite for the May 6 Kentucky Derby.

Both Brother Derek and First Samurai, who was placed first in the Fountain of Youth after Corinthian was disqualified, were said by their trainers to have come out of their races well and will have one more prep before the Kentucky Derby.

Brother Derek will return in the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 8, where his rivals will include Sacred Light, the runner-up in the Santa Catalina, as well as those who emerge from the Grade 2, $250,000 San Felipe Stakes on March 18.

First Samurai will make his next start in either the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby on April 1 at Gulfstream, or the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes on April 15 at Keeneland. Frank Brothers, the trainer of First Samurai, said the Blue Grass was the likely option.

Brother Derek came out of the "great," according to Dan Hendricks, his trainer. He got a Beyer Speed Figure of 102.

"He's fresh and full of himself," Hendricks said Monday morning. "It worked out just the way we wanted. It was a non-taxing race, and he did it in racehorse time."

Hendricks said that a minor laceration Brother Derek suffered in the race on the outside of his left front ankle was insignificant.

"It barely broke the skin," he said. "He just took a little bit of hair off."

Sacred Light, who rallied for second in the Santa Catalina, will challenge Brother Derek again in the Santa Anita Derby.

"It was an encouraging race," said David Hofmans, who trains Sacred Light. "We saw that he probably fits there."

Hofmans drew parallels to Giacomo, last year's Derby winner, who, like Sacred Light, is a gray-colored son of Holy Bull. "He's a big, strong homebred, and he looks like Giacomo, too," Hofmans said. "Same sire, same color."

Latent Heat, who finished third in the Santa Catalina, "bucked his shins a little bit" in the race and will not make the Kentucky Derby, trainer Bobby Frankel said Monday.

"We'll X-ray him in a few days to make sure there's no crack there," Frankel said. "I don't think there is. He's a little bit sore."

The was not nearly as neat and clean as the Santa Catalina. Corinthian finished first - and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 96 - but was moved back to third for bothering First Samurai and Flashy Bull in the final furlong.

First Samurai was making his first start around two turns. He will continue to train in Florida until it is decided whether he remains at Gulfstream for the Florida Derby, or heads to Keeneland for the Blue Grass.

"More likely the Blue Grass than the Florida Derby," Brothers said when asked where First Samurai would run.

Corinthian will make his next start in the Grade 1, $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 8, according to his trainer, Jimmy Jerkens.

Flashy Bull, who was moved up to second when Corinthian was disqualified, will remain in Florida for the Florida Derby, according to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

My Golden Song, who was fourth, will likely go to the Grade 2, $500,000 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne on April 8, according to trainer Todd Pletcher. His other option is the Florida Derby.

"He might appreciate the longer stretch at Hawthorne," Pletcher said.

Pletcher will still have a representative in the Florida Derby in Sunriver, who won an allowance race at Gulfstream on Saturday.

Pletcher is moving the chess pieces with his other 3-year-olds. He said Keyed Entry would make his next start in the Grade 3, $200,000 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct on March 18 rather than the Grade 3, $300,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn that day.

Bluegrass Cat, Pletcher's other highly regarded Derby prospect, remains on target for the Grade 3, $250,000 Tampa Bay Derby, which is also on March 18.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch