02/26/2005 1:00AM

Sun King sharp in comeback

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Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO
Sun King with Edgar Prado riding cruises to victory in the 10th race at Gulfstream Park.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Sun King's stock on the list of leading Kentucky Derby candidates skyrocketed after the son of Charismatic launched his 3-year-old campaign with an eye-catching 5 3/4-length victory over Survivalist in Saturday's at Gulfstream Park.

Making his first start since finishing a game and troubled third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Sun King ($3.80) rallied from just off the pace under jockey Edgar Prado to overtake the tiring leader Hal's Image in early stretch of the one-mile, entry-level allowance race. At that point he was engaged by the rail-skimming Survivalist but it was no match through the final furlong as Sun King easily pulled away to a one-sided triumph.

"That was extremely impressive. I couldn't have asked him to do any better," said Nick Zito, who trains Sun King for owner Tracy Farmer. "Edgar rode him perfectly. I didn't want him to get in a speed duel or have him be used too hard the first time back. It's a long year."

Zito said no decision has been made as to Sun King's next start.

"He needed time to develop after the Breeders' Cup, which is why I waited until now to get started, but it worked out good this way," said Zito. "He'll have two more races before the Kentucky Derby, and the scheduling is a little different this year. I will discuss it with Mr. Farmer before we make any decision on what we'll do next."

Zito was referring to the Grade 1, $1 million Florida Derby, which was switched from its traditional spot on the calendar in mid-March until April 2, placing it five weeks out from this year's Kentucky Derby.

Sun King's final time of 1:36.03 was nearly two full seconds faster than Favre covered the same distance earlier in the day winning the first division of the split allowance race.

High Fly confirmed for Fountain of Youth

Zito's other top Kentucky Derby prospect, High Fly, worked five furlongs in 59.50 seconds at Palm Meadows on Saturday and is now being pointed for Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth.

"He worked well this morning and if he has a good week he'll run in the Fountain of Youth," Zito said. "I think it's time to find out where we stand and what direction we'll be going in. If I knew the Gotham would definitely be run at a mile things might be different, but if they get some bad weather up there and have to stay on the inner track that could change and I can't take that chance."

High Fly was transferred to Zito's care following his disappointing third-place finish in the Grade 3 Holy Bull. The loss was the first for High Fly, who had previously registered three one-sided victories, including the one mile Aventura Stakes here earlier in the meet.

Zito said Jerry Bailey will be aboard High Fly if he runs in the Fountain of Youth. Eddie Castro rode High Fly in each of his first four starts.

Busy Saturday work tab

Saturday was a busy day on several fronts for horses prepping for upcoming stakes.

Along with High Fly, other stakes hopefuls to work at Palm Meadows were trainer Richard Dutrow Jr.'s two handicap stars, Saint Liam and Classic Endeavor, who went six furlongs in 1:12 and 1:12.40, respectively, and Zakocity, who covered the same distance in 1:14.40 for trainer Patrick Reynolds.

Saint Liam is prepping for Saturday's Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap while Classic Endeavor and Zakocity are both expected to make their next start in Saturday's Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.

Dutrow said Saint Liam, easy winner of the Grade 1 Donn Handicap in his 2005 debut, is scheduled to leave for California on Thursday.

Zakocity and Classic Endeavor finished second and third, respectively, behind Musique Toujours in the Sunshine Millions Classic.

At Gulfstream, Hot Storm worked five furlongs in 1:02.80 for Saturday's Grade 2 Forward Gal Stakes, while Straight Line drilled the same distance in 1:01.80 in preparation for his 3-year-old debut that same day in the Grade 2 Swale.

Joanne MacNamara, assistant to trainer Dallas Stewart, worked Hot Storm and is pleased with the way the 3-year-old filly is training up to the seven-furlong Forward Gal. Hot Storm rallied to win the six-furlong Sunshine Millions Oaks at Santa Anita in her last start.

"I thought she went a little faster than the time they gave her," said MacNamara. "This race is coming up very tough but you have to give her a shot after the way she ran last time. She was hung five wide around the turn from the 12 hole and still was able to win."