03/04/2006 1:00AM

First Samurai placed 1st in Fountain of Youth

Corinthian and jockey Javier Castellano hold off First Samurai in the Fountain of Youth. They were disqualified to third for causing interference.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Jimmy Jerkens was pretty much resigned to his fate as soon as the horses crossed the finish line and the inquiry sign went up following Saturday's $300,000 at Gulfstream Park. And sure enough several minutes later his worst fears were realized when his Corinthian was disqualified from first and placed third, elevating 3-5 favored First Samurai to victory in the Grade 2 stakes.

Corinthian had rallied from just off the uncontested pace of First Samurai to wrest control nearing midstretch of the 1 1/8-mile Fountain of Youth. But in the process he lugged in, forcing jockey Edgar Prado and First Samurai to check and alter course to the outside. Corinthian then proceeded to drift out despite right-handed pressure from jockey Javier Castellano, carrying both a resurgent First Samurai and unrelenting Flashy Bull out past the middle of the racetrack before eventually edging clear in late stretch..

Corinthian reached the wire one length in front of First Samurai with Flashy Bull another neck behind. But several minutes after posting the inquiry sign and receiving an objection from Prado, the stewards disqualified Corinthian.

"I guess he started a chain reaction," said Jerkens. "He still ran great. I still don't know why he did what he did. It's a shame because he was the best horse. That's what makes it hurt so much."

The disqualification of Corinthian, who was timed in 1:49, gave First Samurai his fifth victory in seven career starts. First Samurai, who is owned by Bruce Lunsford and Lansdon Robbins II, paid $3.40. The win was also the fourth of five on the day for Prado.

Like Jerkens, winning trainer Frank Brothers was fairly confident the stewards would ultimately reach the conclusion they did.

"I've been on both sides of that fence before and I feel sorry for the connections of the other horse," said Brothers. "But I thought they [stewards] made the right decision."

Brothers was also encouraged by First Samurai's performance.

"I thought he answered a big question today about whether he could go a mile and one-eighth and it might give some of his doubters a little more faith," said Brothers. "He's been chasing speed for the last year and today he relaxed quite a bit, then had to start going again when bothered in the stretch, which is a good sign. I thought he showed a lot of courage, especially for a horse making his first start around two turns."

- additional reporting by David Grening