02/15/2006 1:00AM

Splendid Blended's retirement short-lived

Splendid Blended, retired after winning the Vanity last July, will attempt a comeback in the Hurricane Bertie.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Splendid Blended, whose short but brilliant career seemingly had ended last summer in California, will attempt a comeback beginning Saturday in the 6 1/2-furlong Hurricane Bertie Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Trainer Neil Drysdale announced Splendid Blended's retirement in early August after he was unhappy with the way the filly returned from a seven-furlong workout at Del Mar. He said Splendid Blended had an upper suspensory problem from which he expected she would recover, but questioned whether she could make it back to the races.

Splendid Blended has not started since beating Island Fashion to win the Grade 1 Vanity Stakes in July. As a 2-year-old, she captured the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet and finished second behind division champion Sweet Catomine in the Grade 2 Oak Leaf.

Drysdale sent Splendid Blended to owner Peter Vegso's Racing Edge Farm in Ocala, Fla., where she did so well that racing manager Chuck Patton convinced Vegso to put her back in training this winter with Bill Mott.

"We let her down and turned her out and got her ready to start breeding after she returned to the farm," said Patton. "But then she just started running and looking so good in the field. She was perfectly sound and healthy, so I talked Peter into letting me try her at the farm and if she did well to send her to Bill and let him try her at Payson before making any announcement she'd run again."

Mott said Splendid Blended "looks well and is doing fine" as she prepares to launch her comeback in the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie.

"It's sort of a wait-and-see type of deal right now," said Mott. "We could have trained her a little more and waited another month to start her, but with the breeding season coming I guess it made more sense to find out now where we stand. She'll tell us. If she runs well in the Hurricane Bertie we may go for another race. If not she won't."

Mott also reported that Shakespeare, expected to be among the leaders of the older male turf division this season, will not be ready in time to compete in Dubai on March 25. Mott said Shakespeare could make his 2006 debut in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve Classic on the Kentucky Derby undercard at Churchill Downs on May 6.

Shakespeare, a son of Theatrical, won his first five career starts, including Belmont's Grade 1 Turf Classic, before suffering his only defeat when he finished far back in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

Corinthian preps for Fountain

Corinthian, an impressive allowance winner here going 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 2, worked an easy half-mile in 49.40 seconds at Palm Meadows on Wednesday and is on target to compete in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes March 4.

Trained by James Jerkens, Corinthian has captured 2 of his 3 starts, and overcame adversity in his local and two-turn debut. He was blocked along the rail, but angled outside at the head of the stretch and finished strongly to defeat Jazil by three-quarters of a length.

"It was just an easy breeze this morning," said Jerkens. "We'll get more serious with him next time. He showed a lot when he got out after being stuck down on the rail in his last start. He stayed in the race then jumped immediately on those other horses once he got outside."

The Fountain of Youth is shaping up to be a terrific race. Along with Corinthian, the field is likely to include the undefeated Barbaro, Great Point, Reaffirmed, Flashy Bull, and My Golden Song. Trainer Frank Brothers remains uncertain about the status of First Samurai.

Allowance preferable for High Cotton

Trainer Todd Pletcher said he would pass the Fountain of Youth with High Cotton and instead look at an allowance race here next week for the colt's 3-year-old debut.

High Cotton, who worked five furlongs in company with stablemate Bluegrass Cat at Palm Meadows on Sunday, has captured just 1 of 5 starts but was second to Catcominatcha in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes and second behind Private Vow to close out his 2-year-old campaign in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 26.

"I gave him a little time off because he ran so hard last season," said Pletcher. "We'll probably try to bring him back in a one-mile allowance race here on the 22nd."

Pletcher also said that Bandini, who has not started since finishing next to last in the Kentucky Derby, is still a couple of works away from launching his comeback, which might come in the seven-furlong Richter Scale Stakes on March 4.