04/21/2005 11:00PM

High Fly, Noble Causeway still hard to separate

Nick Zito and High Fly, who worked five furlongs at Churchill Downs in 1:06.60 on Friday.

High Fly and Noble Causeway have been on parallel paths for a little more than two months, with on Feb. 5 and March 5 before their one-two finish in the Florida Derby on April 2. So it was only appropriate that the two colts, who are at Churchill Downs preparing for the Kentucky Derby on May 7, would work minutes apart Friday morning in what is likely to be their penultimate drill for the Derby.

Officially, both went five furlongs, with Noble Causeway timed in 1:04.60 and High Fly in 1:06.60. But Nick Zito, who trains both colts, said both worked six furlongs, starting at the half-mile and going well out past the wire. With both works occurring in the early morning dark, and obscured further by rain, Zito believes the clockers were hampered.

"They're very good clockers, but they didn't get what I got," Zito said from Keeneland, where he was running horses Friday afternoon. "They broke off at the half and went out, so I think [the clockers] were a little confused. I had High Fly finishing his final quarter in 24 seconds. I was very, very, very happy with both of them."

Maxine Correa was on High Fly, and her husband, Carlos, rode Noble Causeway.

Both colts were originally scheduled to work on Saturday morning. But with rain beginning to fall Friday morning, and showers predicted to last into Saturday in Louisville, "we called an audible," Zito said.

"It was raining like crazy over there," he said. "I didn't want to wait until [Saturday]."

High Fly has won five times in six starts, and has captured both the Fountain of Youth Stakes and Florida Derby since being transferred to Zito. Noble Causeway has won twice in six starts, and though he lost to his stablemate by 1 1/2 lengths in the Florida Derby, he is attracting plenty of attention and is becoming something of a wise-guy horse in this year's Derby.

Both colts are coming off three straight 1 1/8-mile races at Gulfstream Park, so Zito said fitness is not an issue.

"I've put some long gallops into those two," he said. "I'm happy with them. They've got enough bottom. I might put a little zip into them when I work them next week. They had three mile-and-an-eighth races in a row. Not a mile and a sixteenth, a mile and an eighth. I don't want to overdo it."

High Fly and Noble Causeway are two of five colts Zito has in line for the Derby. Sun King, who was fourth in last week's Blue Grass Stakes, will work toward the end of next week, Zito said. Bellamy Road, the Wood Memorial winner, came out of his work on Thursday in good condition and will have one more drill, probably next Saturday, Zito said. Those four are at Churchill Downs.

Zito's other colt, Andromeda's Hero, is at Keeneland after finishing third in last week's Arkansas Derby.

"He was stabled last fall at Churchill, so he knows his way around there," Zito said. "He worked well there as a 2-year-old. He's a Fusaichi Pegasus. He's high-strung. It's better for him here.

"I'm going to pull a Patrick Biancone," Zito said, referring to the trainer who remained at Keeneland last year with Lion Heart, who ran second in the Derby.

Having horses split between Churchill and Keeneland, and being forced to travel between both tracks every day, left Zito sounding a little weary Friday afternoon.

"Yeah, but I'm not tired enough that I'm throwing in the sponge yet," he said.

In other Derby developments:

* Greeley's Galaxy, the Illinois Derby winner, also worked Friday morning at Churchill and was credited with a time of 1:16.80 for six furlongs under exercise rider Mikki Fincher. Greeley's Galaxy is trained by California-based Warren Stute, but while in Kentucky he is residing in the barn of Al Stall Jr., who trains horses in the Midwest for B. Wayne Hughes, the owner of Greeley's Galaxy.

"He just cruised around there and cooled out very fast," Stall said. "He handled it with aplomb. It was close to what they wanted. I just wanted to fill the order."

* Roger Stein, the trainer of Santa Anita Derby runner-up General John B, said the gelding was a definite go for the Derby. He said General John B would travel next week, either Thursday or Saturday.

"He's a very good horse," Stein said. "I don't know if he stacks up on numbers and timewise with a horse like Bellamy Road, but if you went by numbers, he shouldn't have been second in the Santa Anita Derby. We're realistic. We know we could just split the field. But he worked good the other day, and he's doing really good. I just have to figure out whether I'm going to wear light or dark socks with my shorts."