12/09/2005 12:00AM

First Samurai near return to serious work

First Samurai, third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, may start breezing as early as this week.

MIAMI - First Samurai, among the leading members of the 2-year-old division all season, has settled comfortably into his winter home at Gulfstream Park and could begin breezing again as early as next week.

First Samurai, a son of Giant's Causeway, captured his first four career starts, including the Grade 1 Hopeful and Champagne stakes in easy fashion before concluding his campaign with a troubled third-place finish as the 6-5 favorite in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. His trainer, Frank Brothers, gave First Samurai some time to unwind after the Breeders' Cup, shipped his star to Florida late last month, and currently has him back galloping at Gulfstream on a regular basis.

"He had an easy November, shipped fine, and could start breezing some time next week," Brothers said Friday. "Probably Monday or Tuesday."

Brothers said he has no definite plans for First Samurai's return this winter, although did mention the 7 1/2-furlong Hutcheson Stakes on Feb. 4 as one possibility.

"Nothing's written in stone right now, although I don't think I want to start him right back at a mile and one-eighth," Brothers said. "He'll tell us when he's ready and what to do. He was a nice 2-year-old, but this is a new year. Hopefully he'll come back and have a nice 3-year-old campaign. But like all good 2-year-olds, the key is they've got to be able to go out and improve from 2 to 3, and right now I see no reason to believe that he won't."

Despite having his perfect record come to an end in the Breeders' Cup, First Samurai may actually have turned in one of his best performances of the season in the Juvenile, Brothers believes.

"He wasn't good in the gate, didn't break well, got plenty of dirt in his face, and still finished pretty well," Brothers said. "Naturally we would have liked to have won, but he got a lot of schooling out of the race, and considering everything that he went through I thought it was a pretty good effort."

First Samurai will have some big shoes to fill in Brothers' barn this winter since Madcap Escapade was retired earlier this year. Madcap Escapade was generally regarded as the best filly or mare sprinter in the country the last two seasons and was particularly dominant at Gulfstream, where she was undefeated and untested in four starts.

"She was a horse of a lifetime," Brothers said. "As good as it gets in her category. She had greatness you just don't replace very easily. She had a good career, and luckily she was able to retire sound."

Madcap Escapade is scheduled to be bred to A.P. Indy next year.

Charon has tightly matched field

Fillies and mares will be in the spotlight at Calder on Sunday when a field of 11 starts in the $40,000 Charon Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.

American Miss, who showed a new dimension by rallying from off the pace to register a 1 1/4-length victory in the Elmer Heubeck Distaff Handicap on Nov. 12, may be the slight favorite while sharing high weight of 123 pounds with Aesculus and Casty under the allowance conditions of the race.

Aesculus, a stakes winner in England in 2004, has not quite duplicated that form since coming to the United States, where she has won 2 of 7 starts. Casty, a two-time Group 1 winner in Mexico, takes a sharp drop in class after finishing seventh making her U.S. debut this summer in Hollywood Park's Grade 1 Vanity Handicap.

Mocita, a seven-length winner of the Storm Frolic overnight stakes on Nov. 20, and her uncoupled stablemate Potra Clasica, an easy allowance winner five days later, also loom as key contenders in the Charon.