02/03/2006 12:00AM

Sorcerer's Stone in Derby hunt

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If all goes well, once-beaten Sorcerer's Stone will make his 2006 debut in the Swale Stakes.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Sorcerer's Stone is going to get a relatively late start but trainer Pat Byrne remains hopeful his once-beaten 3-year-old prospect can still earn himself a spot in the starting gate for this year's Kentucky Derby.

Sorcerer's Stone has not started since suffering his only setback, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. A son of Gulch, he had captured his first three outings, including the Arlington-Washington Futurity by nearly nine lengths. But he was never a factor on Breeders' Cup Day, ultimately checking in almost a dozen lengths behind Stevie Wonderboy in the Juvenile.

"He was a little uneasy in the receiving barn before the Breeders' Cup, but that really wasn't any excuse," said Byrne, who trains Sorcerer's Stone for owners Robert Shepard and Carrol Castille. "He just ran a blah race. He never really showed any speed. It was just a lackluster performance."

Sorcerer's Stone had a small chip taken out of his ankle shortly after the Breeders' Cup, and as a result he's a bit behind most other members of his division at this point of the season.

"There was a little window of opportunity to take the chip out after the Breeders' Cup so we took it," said Byrne.

Sorcerer's Stone worked three furlongs at Gulfstream Park on Friday in 35.80 seconds. It was his second recorded trial, both at three-eighths of a mile, since returning to training here earlier this winter.

"I think we've still got a shot at the Derby, and I'd like to put two races into him if I can," said Byrne. "Right now the Swale is what I'm pointing for. I should be able to get five or six good works into him and that would have him tight enough to run. He's not a big horse or a heavy horse so we should be fine, barring any setbacks."

The seven-furlong Swale will be run on March 4 on the undercard for the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes.

"I wouldn't kill him to win the first-time back," said Byrne. "For now the main thing is just to get to the Swale. If all were to go well, I'd probably skip the Florida Derby and look at a race like the Illinois Derby for his second start. That would be the most logical spot."

Byrne won the Swale with Ethan Man in 2002. He has 10 horses stabled here this winter, including two other 3-year-olds he has high hopes for, Archilles and He's Gone West, both of whom were entered in maiden races on Saturday.

French Park works

French Park, one of the top 2-year-old fillies in the nation in 2005, also worked here Friday, going an easy half-mile in 51 seconds for trainer Helen Pitts. The move was the first for French Park since she suffered her first defeat in four starts when she was beaten a head by Baghdaria in Louisiana Downs's Silverbulletday Stakes on Jan. 14.

"She came out of her last race good and is happy as a clam," said Pitts after Friday's work. "She ran hard in Louisiana and I thought she ran great even though she got beat. The track out there was a little deeper than what she's been used to, and she was very game and had nothing to be ashamed of."

Pitts, who has 23 horses stabled at Gulfstream and six at Turfway Park, said she's pointing French Park for the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes here on March 5.

Tortora likes Sunshine Millions Classic payday

Trainer Manny Tortora was all smiles after returning from California earlier this week, where he sent out Whos Crying Now and Supervisor to finish second and fifth, respectively, in the Sunshine Millions Classic.

"I thought both of them ran great," said Tortora who is based year-round at Calder. "Whos Crying Now got stopped at the head of the stretch or he might have won the race. We picked up $200,000 for Whos Crying Now and another $50,000 for Supervisor, and you've got to win a lot of races at Calder to make that kind of money."

Tortora said Supervisor would be turned out for 30 days and that he has yet to pick a spot for Whos Crying Now's next start.

Corinthian's future looking bright

Corinthian stamped himself a potential candidate for the Fountain of Youth after rallying to a three-quarter-length victory going 1 1/8 miles under first-level allowance conditions on Thursday. The victory was the second in a row for Corinthian, a son of Pulpit, who earned a career-high 87 Beyer Speed Figure.

"I was just happy he stayed in the gate as long as he did without any problem," said trainer Jimmy Jerkens. Corinthian was scratched at the gate prior to the Aventura Stakes a month earlier.

* Earlie Fires, the elder statesman in the jockeys' quarters, got his first victory of the meet, on Royal Master in Friday's fourth race.