06/25/2003 11:00PM

Even more N.Y.-bred talent in Mike Lee


ELMONT, N.Y. - The depth of the New York-bred 3-year-old division is such that even with the two most accomplished horses in the crop - Funny Cide and Go Rockin' Robin - waiting for more lucrative spots, the $100,000 Mike Lee on Saturday still came up an interesting race.

Bossanova, an open-company maiden winner who has yet to face statebreds, and Spite the Devil, winner of the Grade 3 Withers, head the eight-horse field. The Mike Lee, run at seven furlongs, is the first leg of the Big Apple Triple, a series that includes the New York Derby at Finger Lakes on July 26 and the Albany at Saratoga on Aug. 20. If one horse can win all three, he will earn his connections a $250,000 bonus.

Bossanova makes his first start since being transferred by owners Lorraine and Rod Rodriguez from trainer Chris Paasch to James Bond, who has won this race two of the last three years. Bossanova, a son of Pine Bluff, finished third behind Posse in the Grade 3 Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland and second, beaten a half-length by Posse, in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill on May 10.

"The way he trains, I wouldn't rule out going seven-eighths, no problem," said John Booker, assistant to Bond. "I'm not completely convinced that the only thing he can do is sprint, but he does have a compact, sprinter's type of conformation."

Spite the Devil was second to Funny Cide in a pair of statebred stakes last fall. This year, he won the Withers, a one-turn mile race at Aqueduct, before finishing a well-beaten fourth behind Go Rockin' Robin in the Peter Pan.

"If he fires his best race, he'll be right there," said trainer Allen Jerkens, who lamented the fact that his horse must carry high weight of 123 pounds, a three- to nine-pound concession.

Acceptable Venture romped to a 10 1/4-length victory in an entry-level statebred allowance race on Belmont Day, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 90. Looking Grand is 2 for 2 at seven furlongs, and Infinite Justice returns to statebred company, where he is 3 for 5.

Funny Cide galloping strongly

Funny Cide, who became the first New York-bred to win the Kentucky Derby, has been galloping the right way around Belmont's main track for the last four days. On Thursday, he was particularly strong, according to exercise rider Robin Smullen.

"He's been galloping good, but today he was really strong," Smullen said, adding that each day he had been going 1 1/2 miles at a 17- or 18-second clip per furlong.

For most of the Triple Crown series, Funny Cide would train by cantering the wrong way once or twice around Belmont's main track. Funny Cide is still on target to make his next start in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 3.

Volponi works toward Suburban

More than 600 horses worked at Belmont Park on Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday, it was Volponi's turn.

Volponi, last year's upset Breeders' Cup Classic winner, drilled five furlongs in 1:00.02 under Jose Santos in preparation for a start in next Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Suburban Handicap. It equaled the third-fastest time of 16 moves at the distance.

"He might work one more time before the Suburban if he needs it," said trainer Phil Johnson. "He's sure doing well, eating well, and he handled the heat well."

The Suburban will be Volponi's third race this year. He is coming off a second in an allowance race and a second in the Brooklyn. He will add blinkers for the Suburban, a 10-furlong race that is also expected to draw Dollar Bill, Evening Attire, Harlan's Holiday, Hero's Tribute, Judge's Case, and Mineshaft.

Aldebaran headed to Triple Bend

Aldebaran, the Metropolitan Handicap winner, will make his next start in the Grade 1, $300,000 Triple Bend Breeders' Cup Handicap next Saturday at Hollywood Park, trainer Bobby Frankel confirmed.

Aldebaran was scheduled to leave on a plane Thursday afternoon, but Frankel canceled those plans due to heat above 90 degrees in New York. Aldebaran, who worked three furlongs in 36.56 seconds at Belmont on Thursday, will likely ship to California on Tuesday.

"He's bounced out of his races well - we might as well take advantage of it," Frankel said. "It's a Grade 1, and it's $300,000."

After winning the Met Mile, Aldebaran finished third in the nine-furlong Stephen Foster Handicap on June 14.

Frankel has canceled plans to run Chiselling in the Stars and Stripes Breeders' Cup at Arlington next Saturday and instead will point him to the Bowling Green here July 12.

Expanded schedule, wagering menu

With a favorable weather forecast, the New York Racing Association has added races to the weekend schedule. On both Saturday and Sunday, 11 live races will be run at Belmont, two more than usual.

Most of the additional races are scheduled for the turf, a surface that could not be used for several weeks due to heavy rain. More than 40 races scheduled for turf have been moved to the main track this meet.

"We're backed up on a lot of turf horses. We're going to take advantage of the weather and try to break some maidens for Saratoga and get rolling on the turf," said racing secretary Mike Lakow.

With the additional races, Belmont's wagering schedule has changed slightly. Because two simulcasts will be mixed into the 11 live races Saturday, the pick four, usually reserved for the final four races, will be on races 6 through 9. The pick six will be offered beginning with race 4. In addition to a daily double on races 8 and 9, there will be a double offered on 12 and 13.

On Sunday, the pick six will be offered on races 6 through 11 and the pick four on races 8 through 11. Daily double wagering will be offered on races 8-9 and 10-11.