03/06/2006 1:00AM

Fortunately, Flashy Bull ran

Ryan McAlinden/EQUI-PHOTO
Miraculous Miss, winning the Forward Gal under Jeremy Rose, may run next in the Ashland at Keeneland.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin originally considered scratching Flashy Bull after his colt drew post 10 for Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes. Instead he opted to let Flashy Bull compete, and as a result now finds himself with one of the leading contenders for the $1 million Florida Derby on April 1.

Flashy Bull finished third in the Fountain of Youth but was placed second following the disqualification of first-place finisher Corinthian. The performance was a step forward from Flashy Bull's fourth-place finish behind the undefeated Barbaro four weeks earlier in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes.

"I considered scratching because I was afraid he could get hung up very wide with the short run to the first turn," McLaughlin said. "But the timing of the races down here is excellent if you're looking to get a horse to the Kentucky Derby, and I really didn't want to disrupt his schedule. And after watching the replay and sleeping on it for a couple of days, I don't think the post was as big a negative coming out of the race as I thought it might have been going in.

"The rider did have to ask him a little leaving there to stay out of trouble on the first turn, and when he asked him again through the stretch the colt responded."

McLaughlin, who narrowly missed winning the 2005 Kentucky Derby with Closing Argument, said he likes the fact that the Florida Derby is carded five weeks before the main event at Churchill Downs.

"A lot of people say you can't win the Derby running in a prep five weeks out," said McLaughlin. "But that's because very few horses have tried it since traditionally most of the final preps have been carded three weeks before the Derby."

McLaughlin was disappointed with the performance of his other Fountain of Youth starter, Jazil, who finished seventh.

"I was scratching my head after the race, especially since we finished less than a length behind Corinthian the last time they met," said McLaughlin. "But then I found out he had bled. So we have an excuse. Now we have to decide what to do next, although the first thing I'll do is give him a little bit of time."

Laity gives Brothers another threat

Trainer Frank Brothers came out of the weekend with two Kentucky Derby hopefuls following Saturday's victories by First Samurai in the at Turfway Park.

Brothers said First Samurai came out of the Fountain of Youth in good order and would probably make his next start in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 8.

"You could make a good case for going up there and a good case for staying down here for the Florida Derby, but at the moment the Blue Grass is the most likely scenario," said Brothers.

Laity, who bounced back from a pair of disappointing efforts in his final starts at 2 with his game half-length win in the Battaglia, will remain in Kentucky and be pointed either for the Rushaway or Lane's End stakes at Turfway on March 25.

"I was really surprised by his two bad races at the end of last season," said Brothers. "The Breeders' Futurity was particularly disappointing. We decided to have him gelded after that. I thought it just might make him a better racehorse, and he'd been training very well down here all winter prior to the Battaglia."

Great Point returns banged up

Trainer Nick Zito reported that Great Point banged his ankle leaving the starting gate in the Fountain of Youth and as a result never ran his race. The second choice behind the odds-on First Samurai off his second- place finish in the Holy Bull, Great Point was never a serious factor and finished 10th and last in the Fountain of Youth.

"He had blood on his nose and his ankle swelled up," said Zito. "He wound up getting rank after that and the rest is history. We'll give him enough time like we did before the Holy Bull and then try him back either in the Florida Derby or Blue Grass."

Zito suffered through a tough day on Saturday, going winless with 11 starters, but bounced right back the following afternoon when he sent out Noble Causeway to a victory over optional claiming company. The performance was the second big effort on the comeback trail for Noble Causeway, who tailed off badly last season following his second-place finish in the Florida Derby.

"I thought this was a good race for him today," said Zito. "He made a huge run around the turn to catch the leaders, then appeared to be looking for competition in the final furlong. I was particularly impressed with the way he galloped out. Hopefully, we've weathered the storm with him. This could be a special horse, he's got a great style, and I might consider running him back here next month in the Skip Away."

The Grade 3 Skip Away is a 1 1/8-mile race on April 1.

Ashland next target for two fillies

Miraculous Miss, who rallied from last to win Sunday's , and French Park, who finished seventh and last earlier in the day in the Bonnie Miss Stakes, could meet next month at Keeneland in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes.

Miraculous Miss rebounded from her only setback in five starts, a dull showing over a sloppy track in the Old Hat Stakes, with an impressive performance in the seven-furlong Forward Gal.

"I love the way she sustains her run, and I think there's a good chance we'll try the Ashland," trainer Steve Klesaris said Monday. "That way we can get an idea where we stand with her."

French Park came out of the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss with a lung infection, according to her trainer, Helen Pitts.

"I don't think she cared too much for the track, either," Pitts said. "We'll just turn the page and move on, and if everything goes all right over the next few weeks we'll stick with our original plan to go to the Ashland and then the Oaks."

Announcer's joke no laughing matter

Several minutes after Spun Sugar, owned by Stronach Stables, had scored a victory over an overmatched field of optional claiming rivals on Monday track announcer Vic Stauffer made the following announcement.

"There was a claim in the race. Claimed was number five, Spun Sugar," said Stauffer. "Only kidding. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention."

Among those paying attention was Spun Sugar's trainer, Todd Pletcher, who quickly replied, "I don't think Mr. Stronach would think that was very funny."

Getcozywithkaylee, who finished second to Spun Sugar, was the horse actually claimed out of the race for $75,000.