The 4-year-old son of Pulpit got a perfect trip under Javier Castellano, surging past the moderate pacesetter Noble Causeway coming off the final turn to gain a 1 1/2-length lead in the stretch. Corinthian had to dig in as they approached the shadow of the wire, however, as Hesanoldsalt, switching off the rail for Rafael Bejarano, and A.P. Arrow on the outside with John Velazquez aboard, closed in slowly. Corninthian appeared to be drifting out slightly under right-handed urging but had just enough left to defeat Hesanoldsalt, who finished a half-length in front A.P. Arrow. The winning time for the 1 3/16-mile dirt event was 1:55.
Trained by James Jerkens, the lightly-raced Corinthian, who carried top weight of 117 pounds against five rivals, improved his record 4-1-2 in seven lifetime starts. With Saturday's winning share of $210,000, the chestnut colt increased his earnings to $328,000.
Corinthian tuned up for the Gulfstream Park Handicap with a 9 1/2-length romp over optional allowance/claiming foes at nine furlongs over the course Feb. 8, a field that included Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Jazil. That was his first start since being injured in a third-place finish in an allowance event at Saratoga July 29. That race preceded the Fountain of Youth, in which Corinthian defeated First Samurai by a length but was dropped to third for interference in deep stretch.
"I was really worried about the heat," Jerkens said. "I was afraid he was going to sweat too much, and lose too much before the race. I knew today was going to be tough. You can’t judge by an allowance win (Feb. 8). He ran great and fast, but other than Jazil, there wasn’t much in that one.
"I thought Hesanoldsalt was going to get him, but he dug down. Little by little he’s learning how to act. Now he’s not nervous. He’s just ornery. Last year, he was nervous and ornery. We’ll probable head back to New York in about three weeks, and then we’ll map out his schedule.”
Castellano got Corinthian away in good order and they stalked the moderate pace set by Noble Causeway (:24, :48 1/5, 1:12 1/5) just on the outside, making their move on the far turn as Noble Causeway began to tire. After opening a clear lead, Corinthian was under heavy pressure after completing the mile in 1:36. He paid $4, $2.80 and $2.10.
“He likes to hang a little at the top of the stretch," Castellano noted. "You really have to wait for the right move and not wait too long. I saw (Hesanoldsalt) coming in the stretch. My horse saw him late and got strong in the last sixteenth. He gave me the extra push.”
Gracefield Equine and Hargus Sexton bred Corinthian, a $385,000 Fasig-Tipton buy in August 2004, in Kentucky. Corinthian is out of Multiply, by Easy Goer.
The Nick Zito-trained Heasanoldsalt came into the race off a second-place finish in the Donn Handicap (gr. I) one month ago when he finished two lengths behind 2006 Horse of the Year Invasor. Hesanoldsalt returned $3 and $2.10.
“Corinthian is a top horse and we were second to him," Zito said. "So many seconds, I can’t count them. It’s frustrating, very frustrating. In the turn he (Hesanoldsalt) hesitated and that’s why he (Bejarano) wheeled him out."
A.P. Arrow, trained by Todd Pletcher, ran third in the Donn, a head behind Hesanoldsalt. He paid $2.10.
It was 6 1/2 lengths back to Noble Causeway in fourth, with Rehoboth and Summer Book trailing.
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