03/26/2005 1:00AM

Noble Causeway works; High Fly ill


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Noble Causeway worked five furlongs in 1:01 at Palm Meadows on Saturday in preparation for the $1 million Florida Derby. But a similar work scheduled for his stablemate, High Fly, was canceled after trainer Nick Zito discovered the Fountain of Youth winner had come down with a slight temperature the previous afternoon.

Noble Causeway, going in company with Stephen K.W., broke off a couple of lengths behind his stablemate at the half-mile pole and easily ran past him approaching the finish line. He continued on strongly around the turn to finish five lengths in front of Stephen K.W. by the time he completed his work at the one-mile pole.

"He went great," Zito said. "I was happy with it. It was so hot out there this morning it was like a triple work. He's a very talented horse and he's ready for this race. Naturally, his inexperience is always a concern but he's got pretty good credentials."

Noble Causeway, a son of Giant's Causeway, comes into Saturday's Florida Derby off a pair of easy victories going 1 1/8 miles .

Zito's enthusiasm over Noble Causeway's work was understandably tempered by his concern for High Fly and the prevailing strangles problem at the Palm Meadows training center.

"I left the barn here [Friday] at 2:30 p.m. and everything was fine and then got a call at my barn at Gulfstream two hours later telling me High Fly had a temperature," Zito said. "Naturally with everything going on up here with the strangles situation I was extremely concerned, although fortunately he was fine this morning. We even had him under tack in the shed row but I decided it was best to postpone his work."

Zito planned to ship Noble Causeway and High Fly to his Gulfstream barn on Sunday and hoped to be able to work High Fly for the Florida Derby either Monday or Tuesday.

"He's very fit and if I can work him Monday or Tuesday we're in good shape," said Zito. "If not, I'll think of another plan."

High Fly, who was transferred to Zito's barn after suffering his first career setback in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes earlier in the meet, rebounded with a three-quarter-length decision over Bandini in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. High Fly figures to be a slight favorite over Bandini if he's able to run ain the Florida Derby.

Zito also shipped out his two other Kentucky Derby hopefuls, Sun King and Bellamy Road, from Palm Meadows to Churchill Downs on Saturday. Sun King is scheduled to have his final Derby prep in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 16, while Bellamy Road is being pointed for the Wood Memorial on April 9.

B.B. Best breezes a mile

B.B. Best, who finished a game third behind High Fly and Bandini after setting the pace in the Fountain of Youth, turned in his final major prep for the Florida Derby when he worked a mile in 1:45.40 over his home base at Calder on Saturday.

"He went exactly like I wanted him to," said trainer Eddie Plesa. "He went the first half in 55 and change and the last half-mile in 50, which was what I was looking for. He's exactly where he needs to be going into the race on Saturday. He gave me every indication in the Fountain of Youth that he belongs with these horses, and I feel he's going to be very competitive in the race."