04/02/2005 12:00AM

High Fly tops his stablemate

Gary I. Rothstein/EQUI-PHOTOS
High Fly (right) rolls to a 1 1/2-length win over stablemate Noble Causeway in the Grade 1 Florida Derby. B. B. Best (blinkers) was third.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. A nerve-racking week ended in triumph for trainer Nick Zito on Saturday after his two entrants, High Fly and Noble Causeway, finished first and second in Gulfstream Parks $1 million .

High Flys 1 1/2-length win over Noble Causeway gave Zito his first Florida Derby victory after 16 losses, and marked the first time in 30 years that a trainer had sent out the first two finishers in Gulfstreams marquee event. It also gave High Fly a sweep of the tracks two premier 3-year-old races. He won the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth four weeks earlier.

Zitos hectic week began last Saturday, when he was forced to postpone High Flys final work for the Grade 1 Florida Derby after his horse came down with a slight temperature the previous afternoon. Zito shipped High Fly and Noble Causeway from Palm Meadows to his Gulfstream Park barn last Sunday, but because of the strangles situation at the training center, his two Florida Derby hopefuls were restricted from going to the track until the general horse population had completed training each morning.

The 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby mirrored the Fountain of Youth, with B.B. Best setting the pace and High Fly and jockey Jerry Bailey hot on his heels. The pair maintained that same order until High Fly engaged B.B. Best entering the stretch, surged clear nearing the sixteenth pole, and maintained a clear advantage over Noble Causeway.

Noble Causeway advanced four wide into close contention approaching the quarter pole and finished willingly, but proved no match for his stablemate. As in the Fountain of Youth, B. B. Best continued on gamely to finish third. He was followed by Park Avenue Ball, Mighty Mecke, Vicarage, Papi Chullo, Evil Minister, and Wallstreet Scandal.

High Fly, who was turned over to Zito by owner Charlotte Weber following his only loss earlier this winter in the Holy Bull Stakes, paid $4.40. He covered the distance in 1:49.43 over a fast track.

Im very proud and very humbled, said Zito. Both horses showed a lot of courage, great heart, and determination. I think they both can get a mile and one-quarter without question.

This High Fly has a tremendous heart, he said. He had a temperature earlier in the week and battled back. And youve got to give Noble Causeway a lot of credit running that well coming out of allowance races. It looks like hes got a great future.

Zito said High Fly would train directly into the Kentucky Derby, while plans for Noble Causeway remained less certain.

Hopefully Noble Causeways on the way to the Derby, too, said Zito. Whether he makes another start before that, I dont know right now.