02/28/2006 1:00AM

We'll see where First Samurai fits

First Samurai is by Giant's Causeway, who has mostly produced runners who have succeeded on turf. He will run in Saturday's Fountain of Youth.

LAS VEGAS - Winner of the Hopeful and Champagne stakes, First Samurai was the leader of last year's 2-year-old division until he finished third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile behind Stevie Wonderboy. Possessing high speed and high class, he is one of only a few runners by Giant's Causeway to demonstrate his talent on dirt.

At nine furlongs, the Fountain of Youth Stakes should answer whether First Samurai will be a major contender for the Kentucky Derby or Metropolitan Mile.

Thus far, turf has been the preferred surface for the majority of Giant's Causeway's offspring, and while they have shown ability to win at middle distances on grass (most notably Shamardal's victory in the Prix du Jockey Club, or French Derby, at 10 1/2 furlongs), Thoroughbreds in general have always been able to stretch out to longer distances on turf than dirt.

Last winter, Noble Causeway, another son of Giant's Causeway, showed vast promise finishing second in the Florida Derby. While he did not train later in the season at 3, Noble Causeway is on the comeback trail for Nick Zito. Bred to appreciate routes, Noble Causeway has many stamina influences up close in his pedigree. His dam is by Machiavellian, his second dam is by Troy, and his third dam is by Riverman.

With Dixieland Band, Fappiano, and Reviewer as his first three damsires, First Samurai should at least be effective at middle distances, such as the nine furlongs of the Fountain of Youth. Dixieland Band and Fappiano have had their share of long-distance runners, and although Reviewer is primarily a brilliant speed influence, his two outstanding fillies, champions Ruffian and Revidere, were both successful at 1 1/2 miles in the Coaching Club American Oaks.

Point Given colts better at distance

The first foals by Horse of the Year Point Given are now 3, and they are just beginning to assert themselves with maturity and increasing distances. Bob Baffert trained Point Given, and also conditions three Point Given colts in Southern California: Point Determined, Point of Impact, and Three Points.

In Florida, Jimmy Jerkens has the Point Given colt That's a Given, and Nick Zito has Great Point, who finished a fast-closing second to Barbaro in the Holy Bull Stakes. Great Point has already proved that he wants to go at least nine furlongs - and undoubtedly much farther - and another strong performance in the Fountain of Youth puts him squarely in the Derby picture, particularly because of his breeding and his two-time Derby-winning trainer.

Great Point has a great deal more going for him than just his emerging young sire. His dam, Crafty Queen, is a half-sister to Spain, a $3.5 million earner and Breeders' Cup Distaff winner.

Corinthian beautifully bred

Class in the Thoroughbred is found in the dam and her tail-female family, and it is unlikely that any 3-year-old has more "family" than Corinthian, the big gun in Jimmy Jerkens's stable.

A winner of two of his three starts, Corinthian makes his stakes debut in the Fountain of Youth. Scratched at the gate before the start of the Aventura Stakes because of his high-strung temperament, Corinthian not only displayed raw talent in winning an allowance Feb. 2 at the Fountain of Youth distance, he also showed the ability to overcome adversity during a race, rallying to prevail by three-quarters of a length.

Quite simply, Corinthian has a mouth-watering pedigree. By emerging sire Pulpit (A.P. Indy), he is out of an Easy Goer mare, and his second, third, and fourth damsires - Spectacular Bid, Nijinsky II, and Forli - only underscore the classic stamina found in his pedigree. A half-brother to San Rafael Stakes winner Desert Hero, Corinthian's third dam is a three-quarter sister to champion racehorse and stallion Nureyev, as well as to Fairy Bridge, the dam of Sadler's Wells. Corinthian's fifth dam, Thong, was a stakes-placed full sister to Horse of the Year and champion 2-year-old filly Moccasin, and stakes winners Ridan and Lt. Stevens.

Other Fountain of Youth contenders

Jazil (Seeking the Gold) is another improving 3-year-old with a purple pedigree. While Seeking the Gold sired the brilliant Dubai Millennium, his success as a stallion has been characterized primarily through his outstanding fillies. Jazil is out of Demoiselle Stakes winner Better Than Honour, and his second dam is Kentucky Oaks winner Blush With Pride. His third dam, Best in Show, was the 1982 Broodmare of the Year. Best in Show also produced Sex Appeal, the dam of the full siblings El Gran Senor, champion 2-year-old and 3-year-old in England and Ireland; Try My Best, a Group 1 winner; and Compliance, sire of Fourstardave and Fourstarsallstar.

Itsallaboutthechase was second in the Aventura Stakes and is by the underrated Wood Memorial winner Devil His Due, who was even better at 4 and 5. Devil His Due's best runner to date is Roses in May. But the most important aspect of Itsallaboutthechase's pedigree is his dam, Wild Goose Chase, who is a double RF (Rasmussen Factor) because she is inbred to two very influential broodmares: Flower Bowl, who is the dam of Graustark, Bowl of Flowers, and His Majesty; and Golden Trail, who is the ancestress of such horses as Dynaformer, Monarchos, Ryafan, Sunshine Forever, and Offlee Wild.

The Fountain of Youth field also includes My Golden Song (Unbridled's Song), Can't Beat It (Atticus), Rehoboth (Wagon Limit), and Flashy Bull (Holy Bull), who may be most effective up to 1 1/16 miles.