05/08/2005 11:00PM

Chekhov to take shot at Peter Pan

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Funny Cide faces the tough assignment of running in the May 21 Pimlico Special off a seven-month layoff.

ELMONT, N.Y. - When Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith spent $3.3 million on a 2-year-old son of Pulpit at auction last year, they were hoping the horse would prove worthy of running at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

Instead of running in the Kentucky Derby, Chekhov ran in a maiden race at Belmont Park on Sunday, rallying from well off the pace to win by 8 1/4 lengths under a hand ride from Gary Stevens. Chekhov covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.35 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 93. He will now be pointed to the $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 28, with a strong performance perhaps earning him a spot in the Belmont Stakes on June 11.

"He ran a big race," trainer Patrick Biancone said. "We liked him for a long time. He was only born on May 17 so he's not even 3 yet. He took time to blossom. He was going good in California, but after the Sham Stakes he developed quarter cracks. We gave him a break and brought him back slowly.''

Chekhov ran once at 2, finishing second behind Real Dandy at Keeneland. In his first two starts at 3, Chekhov finished third in a maiden race and fifth in the Sham. Giacomo, who finished third in the Sham - one length ahead of Chekhov - won Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

In his maiden win, Chekhov raced well off the pace, launched his bid leaving the half-mile pole, came four wide turning for home, and inhaled the front-runners in upper stretch.

"He's something very, very special,'' Stevens said. "Patrick's done a great job waiting with him. Mentally and physically everything's been there, but it hadn't come together.''

"He's a big, strong horse with big action," Biancone said. "Belmont should be his garden.''

Biancone said Chekhov was flown back to Keeneland after the race and will ship to Saratoga with the rest of Biancone's stable by the end of the week.

Biancone said that Spanish Chestnut, who set the pace in the Kentucky Derby before backing up to finish 16th, will be given a break and be pointed to the King's Bishop Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 27. Biancone won the King's Bishop last year with Pomeroy.

Funny Cide in unorthodox work

Unable to find a suitable race for Funny Cide's first start of the year, trainer Barclay Tagg gave the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner an unorthodox workout Sunday at Belmont Park. With Jose Santos in the irons, Funny Cide worked 1 1/16 miles from the starting gate in 1:45.42.

Funny Cide is being pointed to the Grade 1 Pimlico Special on May 21, which would be his first race since finishing 10th in the Breeders' Cup Classic last Oct. 30. Funny Cide was entered to run in the Kings Point Handicap on May 1, but was scratched because Tagg did not like the 127-pound weight assignment.

"We wanted to go that far because we're trying to get him to go a mile and three-sixteenths,'' said assistant trainer Robin Smullen, referring to the distance of the Pimlico Special. "We wanted to go out of the gate because we wanted him to be a little more serious. We thought something out of the gate might keep him a little more focused. It was a great work.''

Smullen said that Funny Cide would likely a have six-furlong workout on Saturday. Despite a steady string of stamina-building works, Funny Cide will still face a tall task trying to beat the likes of Offlee Wild, Badge of Silver, Second of June, and Eddington off a seven-month layoff.

"Sure it is,'' Smullen said. "Especially when you don't have a prep. But he's doing well, he's carrying his flesh well. He's as fit as we're going to get him without competition.''

Santos to miss a few days

While Santos was able to work Funny Cide, he was unable to ride on Sunday and will be out until Saturday because of a dental problem.

Last week, Santos inadvertently struck himself in the face with his whip and dislodged a tooth, according to agent Mike Sellitto. Santos's gums became infected and swollen over the weekend, and he was to have undergone a surgical procedure on Monday to fix the problem.

According to Sellitto, Santos's doctor told him to take a few days off, and he will be back on Saturday, when he is scheduled to ride California shipper Elusive Diva in the Grade 2 Genuine Risk Handicap at Belmont.

Smokume in blazing workout

The fastest horse on the grounds, at least in the morning, has to be Smokume. For the second consecutive week, the 4-year-old Smokume burned up the Belmont main track with a scintillating work. Monday, he went five furlongs in 57.18 seconds under jockey Chantal Sutherland. His fractions were 11.34 seconds, 21.72, 32.63, and 44.68. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:10.66.

On May 4, Smokume worked five furlongs in 57.76 seconds.

"He was always a fast work horse, especially on a fast track,'' trainer Allen Jerkens said.

Smokume has won 5 of 13 starts, including three listed stakes. He has not raced since last Sept. 12 when he finished second in the Fly So Free Stakes here. Jerkens said he is searching for a spot, "but there isn't any race he's eligible for.''

Jerkens is also searching for a spot to bring back multiple Grade 1 winner Society Selection. Society Selection, who was injured when she ran in last in the Shirley Jones Handicap at Gulfstream, worked six furlongs in 1:12.63 Monday over the main track.

"We didn't want her to go that fast, but somebody broke off in front of her and she always goes after somebody that's in front of her,'' Jerkens said.

Jerkens said he would like to run Society Selection in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap on June 18, but would want to find a prep race before then, if possible.

* Pollard's Vision, winner of the National Jockey Club Handicap at Hawthorne last month, worked four furlongs in 48.24 seconds on Sunday at Belmont. Trainer Todd Pletcher said he is considering either the Pimlico Special or the Lone Star Handicap on May 30 for Pollard's Vision's next start.