02/02/2005 12:00AM

Duel looms in Shirley Jones

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Society Selection, shown winning last summer's Alabama, is likely to make her first start as a 4-year-old in the seven-furlong Shirley Jones Handicap, where she could face Madcap Escapade.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - One of the most intriguing and anticipated matchups of the Gulfstream Park meeting could be shaping up on Feb. 19 if Madcap Escapade and Society Selection continue on their present course toward the Grade 2 Shirley Jones Handicap.

Shortly after working Society Selection six furlongs in 1:15.80 at Gulfstream on Wednesday, trainer Allen Jerkens confirmed that she would in all likelihood launch her 2005 campaign in the seven-furlong Shirley Jones.

"She's doing good and I'm pretty sure she'll run in the Shirley Jones," said Jerkens. "She's been working well and I'll give her one more fast work before she runs. Obviously, Madcap Escapade is a pretty tough horse to start out against but this filly seems to catch the best around every time she runs."

Society Selection won the Grade 1 Test and Grade 1 Alabama during her 3-year-old campaign. She was also second behind Sightseek in the Grade 1 Beldame and second to Island Sand in the Grade 1 Acorn. She closed out the year by finishing a troubled ninth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff.

"Right now we have no definite plans for her other than to try to go in all the big races if she holds up," Jerkens said.

Madcap Escapade has looked like her old self since shipping into Gulfstream this winter and has turned in a steady series of strong works culminating with a six-furlong gate drill in 1:11.40 on Monday. Trainer Frank Brothers has not pinpointed a specific race for her return but has indicated for several weeks that the Shirley Jones was among the more logical options.

Madcap Escapade began her career with three spectacular victories here last winter, including the Grade 2 Forward Gal Stakes. She outlasted division champion Ashado to win Keeneland's Grade 1 Ashland when stretched around two turns for the first time before going to the sidelines with a non-displaced hairline fracture of the hip after finishing a tiring third behind Ashado in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks.

Funny Cide back on the track

Funny Cide, who remains among the most popular horses in training, is finally back to the track after being given several months of well deserved rest by trainer Barclay Tagg. A 5-year-old New York-bred, Funny Cide gained instant notoriety after winning the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness and has earned more than $3.1 million for his owners, the Sackatoga Stable.

Funny Cide jogged once around the 1 1/8-mile main track alongside a stable pony with his regular exercise rider, Robin Smullen, aboard shortly after Wednesday's second renovation break. As usual, Funny Cide made a grand appearance, although he has put on a few pounds since closing out his 2004 campaign by finishing a troubled 10th in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

"He's been jogging for the last few weeks and now he's cantering with the pony," said Tagg. "He put on a little too much weight while he was off but it's good for him and even though we're well behind schedule right now he certainly deserved and needed the rest. He ran hard for two years in a row against the best horses in training."

Tagg said he would try to have Funny Cide ready to return for the Skip Away Handicap on April 2 but would not rush his star just to make the race.

"I don't know if we can make it or not," said Tagg. "He doesn't take long to get fit but I'm not going to force things to get him back. He ran 10 times last year and was burned out by the time he got to the Breeders' Cup. If he runs six or seven times this season I'll be pleased."

Hurricane Bertie next for Mooji Moo

Trainer Tim Hills reported that Mooji Moo came out of Saturday's Sunshine Millions Filly and Mare Sprint in good order and would now be pointed for the $100,000 Hurricane Bertie Handicap on March 20. Mooji Moo finished second, beaten a neck by House Party, in the 2004 Hurricane Bertie.

Mooji Moo finished a tiring fifth after contesting the pace with the 2-5 Bear Fan in defense of her title in the Filly and Mare Sprint.

"She was a dead short horse and just ran out of training in the stretch on Saturday," said Hills. "Of course it didn't help having to battle early with Bear Fan, although I guess we sort of helped get her beat by dueling like that.

"My filly only had one prep coming off of surgery and a layoff, and one five-furlong race on the turf doesn't set her up for that kind of race," he added. "We'll aim for the Hurricane Bertie although I would love to get a prep into her before the race."

Dutrow stares down superstition

Even though Sis City has won two races since being claimed by trainer Richard Dutrow Jr., including the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes last fall at Aqueduct, he has yet to see her win in person. Dutrow is so superstitious that he gave thought to skipping attending her race on Saturday, when she runs in the Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream. Dutrow is also running Saint Liam in the Donn Handicap on Saturday.

"I've got to be there, or I wouldn't show up," Dutrow said. "If it wasn't for Saint Liam, I wouldn't be there. If her race is early and Saint Liam's is late, maybe I won't show up until after her race."

Sis City is owned in part by New York Yankees manager Joe Torre. She should be a heavy favorite in the 1 1/8-mile Davona Dale.

Keeping an eye on the West

After saddling Sis City and Saint Liam, Dutrow will watch a simulcast from Santa Anita of the Strub Stakes, in which he will run Love of Money. Dutrow shipped Love of Money to California for the Malibu Stakes on Dec. 26, but a malfunction with the plane delayed the colt's arrival, and forced Dutrow to keep him out of the race. Love of Money has remained in California in the barn of trainer Bobby Frankel, a close friend of Dutrow.

"After the Malibu, I wanted to run him in the San Fernando, but it rained out there every day," Dutrow said. "I couldn't make that, so Bobby got him ready to run in the Strub. He's doing incredible. If he likes the track, and doesn't get tired, they will be all day catching him. I truly believe he's going to be a good horse."

Wonder Again in South Carolina

Wonder Again, who won the Diana Handicap last year, is vacationing in Camden, S.C., before she rejoins trainer Jimmy Toner this winter.

"She was in Kentucky until last week. She's just hacking around in Camden. We'll bring her in here on March 1 and start her in serious training," Toner said.

Toner said Wonder Again's first start of the year likely will be the Just a Game Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont Park.

"It's nice having the Breeders' Cup at Belmont this year," Toner said. "She just has to walk across the street and run."

- additional reporting by Jay Privman