03/25/2006 1:00AM

Florida Derby works winding up


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - High Blues and Sharp Humor had their final tune-ups for the $1 million Florida Derby on Saturday morning. High Blues went a half-mile in 47.40 seconds at Gulfstream Park, while Sharp Humor drilled five furlongs in 1:01.40 at the Palm Meadows training center 45 miles up the road.

High Blues worked under former rider Omar Londono on Saturday but will be ridden by Cornelio Velasquez in the Grade 1 Florida Derby.

"He worked like a monster," trainer David Paulus said. "Omar came back and said, 'Wow, this horse just keeps getting better and better.' I don't think we've seen the best of him yet."

High Blues is still eligible for his first-level allowance condition but did finish third behind Corinthian and second to Florida Derby foe Sunriver in allowance races here earlier in the meet.

Sharp Humor will try to stretch his abundant speed around two turns for the first time in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby. A New York-bred, he is coming off a game neck victory over Noonmark in the seven-furlong Swale Stakes.

Another potential Florida Derby starter to work Saturday was Doc Cheney, who breezed five-eighths in 1:02 at Gulfstream. Trainer Nick Zito has yet to commit any of his 3-year-olds to the race, although he has mentioned Doc Cheney as one of the more likely candidates from his barn.

Javier Castellano has picked up the mount on Rehoboth from trainer Frank Gomez for the Florida Derby. Other jockey assignments include Edgar Prado (Barbaro), Rafael Bejarano (Flashy Bull), Velasquez (High Blues), Chris DeCarlo (Saint Augustus), Mark Guidry (Sharp Humor) and John Velazquez (Sunriver).

Strong Contender back

Strong Contender returned to his stall in trainer John Ward's barn shortly before 3 p.m. on Saturday. Strong Contender had vanned to Kentucky for Saturday's Lane's End Stakes but was unable to run when the race overfilled.

Despite bringing Strong Contender back to south Florida, Ward said he is pointing the undefeated 3-year-old for the Grade 1 Wood and not the Florida Derby.

Gygistar works for Artax start

Other notable workers at Gulfstream on Saturday included Smuggler (half-mile in 48.40 seconds), Einstein (five furlongs in 1:01) Middle Earth (five furlongs in 1:00.80), and Network (four furlongs in 48.60).

Gygistar, idle since finishing third in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile, is expected to make his 2006 debut on the Florida Derby undercard in the 7 1/2-furlong Artax Handicap. A 7-year-old son of Prospector's Music, Gygistar worked five furlongs in 1:03.40 at Payson Park on Saturday for trainer Mark Hennig.

Nunez recovery expected

Jockey Eduardo Nunez suffered a lacerated liver but was expected to make a full recovery from his frightening spill in Friday's finale. Nunez was aboard the tiring Goodtogoagain, who clipped heels and unseated his rider near midstretch of the 1 1/16-mile maiden turf race.

"I talked to Eduardo's agent, Roger Velez, this morning, and he said the injury will not require surgery and should heal on its own in about 30 days," said Gulfstream's clerk of scales, Victor Sanchez.

* Naissance Royale, who was beaten less than a length in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland in her 3-year-old finale, will be odds-on to beat a modest field of second-level allowance horses in Monday's $35,000 feature. Naissance Royale won the Grade 2 Lake Placid Stakes at Saratoga in her U.S. debut for trainer Christophe Clement.