02/09/2004 12:00AM

After Silver Wagon's work, race is on

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Silver Wagon, whose status for Saturday's Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes has been up in the air since he suffered a stone bruise 10 days ago, put himself back into the picture after working a mile in 1:41.97 seconds at Calder on Monday.

With new jockey Jose Santos aboard and owner Mahmoud Fustok looking on, Silver Wagon broke off at the wire and went in fractions of 25.63 seconds, 50.54, and 1:16.66 for the opening six furlongs. He was then joined unexpectedly at the quarter pole by the older, multiple graded-stakes winner Mr. Livingston, who was in the midst of a fast five-furlong work.

Mr. Livingston was in high gear when he came to Silver Wagon and appeared set to blow by his younger rival through the stretch. But Santos gave his horse a little urging leaving the eighth pole, and Silver Wagon dug in and fought off Mr. Livingston all the way to the wire before galloping out 1 1/8 miles in 1:55.88.

"He impressed me this morning," trainer Ralph Ziadie said. "And I was happy when he got some company down the lane. My horse outgamed him, and that's a good older horse he wound up working against. I'll talk things over with the boss, but right now I'm leaning toward running him in the Fountain of Youth."

Silver Wagon, winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful at 2, raced greenly while finishing second behind Second of June in the Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes earlier in the meet. Second of June is expected to be favored in the Fountain of Youth.

"He missed five days of training with the stone bruise," Ziadie said of Silver Wagon, "but the way he worked today maybe the time off did him some good. I asked Jose to hit him with the stick a little to get accustomed to it, considering the way he ducked in from the whip in the Holy Bull, and he was fine today."

Santos will replace Jerry Bailey aboard Silver Wagon if he runs Saturday. Bailey opted to keep his regular seat on Read the Footnotes in the Fountain of Youth.

"This is the first time I've been on him, and he impressed me," Santos said. "He picked it up right away when he got hooked. This is a horse with a lot of potential, and I don't think he's given 100 percent yet."

Silver Wagon is one of two Kentucky Derby contenders for Fustok's Buckram Oak Farm along with Eurosilver, who is trained by Nick Zito. Eurosilver won his 3-year-old debut, an allowance race, last week.

"I liked the way my horse worked - especially the way he galloped out very strong," Fustok said. "Naturally it's exciting having two Derby contenders. I wish I had three. We also have a very good 3-year-old filly in Last Song. I couldn't be happier with the way things are going at the moment."

Fountain of Youth hopefuls fill work tabs

Silver Wagon was one of several Fountain of Youth contenders to work Monday. At Palm Meadows, Read the Footnotes went five furlongs in 1:00.20, El Prado Rob five-eighths in 1:01.20, and Mustanfar a half in 49 seconds. Zakocity worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 at Calder.

On Sunday, Frisky Spider went seven furlongs in 1:28 at Gulfstream, while Sir Oscar worked five furlongs in company with stablemate Weigelia in 1:00.60 at Calder.

Both Sir Oscar and Frisky Spider will enter the Fountain of Youth undefeated.

"I needed one more good workout in Sir Oscar because he hasn't run in three months, but I think he'll be real sharp for the race on Sunday," trainer Manny Azpurua said.

Azpurua also said he will likely run Weigelia in the seven-furlong Hutcheson on Saturday's Fountain of Youth undercard.

Bailey to ride Cajun Beat in Dubai

Trainer Steve Margolis confirmed Monday that Jerry Bailey will replace Cornelio Velasquez aboard Cajun Beat when he goes to Dubai for the Golden Shaheen Sprint on March 27.

"This is no disrespect to Cornelio, but I discussed it with the owners, and we felt it was in our best interests to get Jerry if we could for the race in Dubai," Margolis said. "That's kind of a funny track, and he's ridden over it a lot, and we want to have the best advantage we can going over there."

Cajun Beat finished second behind Alke in Saturday's Grade 3 Deputy Minister Handicap, and Margolis said his horse came out of the race in good order.

"I think he's a little mad he got beat, but other than that he's fine," said Margolis. "He never quit. He was just second best the other day. This was the first time he's run beyond six furlongs since I've had him, and the combination of the added distance and the weight he gave the winner could have been the difference."

Romans picks Hutcheson for Blushing Indian

Blushing Indian was being considered for the Fountain of Youth and the Hutcheson, but after looking over the prospective field for the Fountain of Youth, trainer Dale Romans has elected to go in the seven-furlong Hutcheson.

Blushing Indian is coming off a powerful victory in a first-level allowance race at Gulfstream on Jan. 7, also going seven furlongs. It was his first start with Santos, who will be back aboard in the Hutcheson and who worked Blushing Indian on Sunday at Gulfstream. They were timed in 1:01.40 for five furlongs.

"I was always leaning toward the Hutcheson," Romans said Monday at Palm Meadows. "I kept the other option open in case it fell apart. I think if he puts another seven-furlong race together, so that he'd have two back-to-back, he'd then be ready to go up against the big horses."

Blushing Indian was second to Chapel Royal in last summer's Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, his best finish in three previous stakes tries.

The Hutcheson field is expected to include Bachelor Blues, Blushing Indian, Bourbon N Blues, Ghost Mountain, Harbour Gate, Limehouse, Saratoga County, Weigelia, and Wynn Dot Comma, the likely favorite. Deputy Storm, a second Todd Pletcher trainee in addition to Limehouse, is possible.

Wynn Dot Comma, who has won 5 of 6 starts including last month's Spectacular Bid Stakes here, worked five furlongs in 1:01 on Monday morning at Calder. The time equaled the second-best of 18 at the distance.

At Palm Meadows, Deputy Storm (1:02.60), Ghost Mountain (1:02), and Saratoga County (1:03.40) each worked five furlongs.

Options abound for Funny Cide

Funny Cide came out of his third-place finish in Saturday's Donn Handicap tired, but otherwise in good condition, and now trainer Barclay Tagg is pondering the many options for last year's champion 3-year-old male.

Tagg said he is considering bringing Funny Cide back in three weeks in the New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds, or waiting until April to turn back in distance and run Funny Cide in the seven-furlong Carter Handicap at Aqueduct. Should he chose the latter route, Tagg said a major goal would be the Metropolitan Mile on Memorial Day at Belmont Park.

"He might not be a mile-and-an-eighth horse," Tagg said Monday at Palm Meadows, where Funny Cide is based during the winter. "I know he went farther last year," he said, referring to the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, "but sometimes you can get away with that early in the year with a 3-year-old if he matures quicker than the others.

"The Donn was a tough race to win for his first major race of the year," Tagg said. "I thought the two who beat him" - Medaglia d'Oro and Seattle Fitz - "were the two to beat. Maybe if I had it to do over, I'd have waited for the race in New Orleans. Medaglia d'Oro looked like a Sherman tank. He re-broke at the eighth pole, and he wasn't even tired after the race.

"The year is young," the trainer said. "We just have to keep him sound, healthy, and happy."

Collateral Damage edges past Offlee Wild

Collateral Damage ($71.80), the longest shot in the field, nailed 7-5 favorite Offlee Wild in the last jump to win Monday's fifth race, a 1 1/16-mile allowance that featured Offlee Wild and Indy Dancer, a pair of promising 3-year-olds from 2003 who are winless for 13 months.

Offlee Wild moved boldly on the turn and opened a sizable lead at midstretch, but was run down. Indy Dancer finished third.

* Nonsuch Bay breezed five furlongs in 1:01.60 on Monday morning at Gulfstream Park for trainer Frank Alexander in preparation for Sunday's Grade 3, $100,000 Sabin Handicap for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.

* La Reina, who finished second to Ashado in last fall's Demoiselle Stakes, breezed a half-mile in - Pesci, who injured an eye in last month's Sunshine Millions Distaff, was back on the work tab on Sunday at Palm Meadows, where she breezed a half-mile in 50.60 seconds.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman