01/13/2004 1:00AM

Friends Lake hits the trail

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Funny Cide paved the way last year. Now John Kimmel is hoping another New York-bred can make a major impact on the Triple Crown trail.

Kimmel trains Friends Lake, a New York-bred 3-year-old who will make his seasonal debut Saturday in the $100,000 Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park. "I'd like him whether he was a New York-bred or not," said Kimmel. "He's got a whole lot of pedigree, and he hasn't done anything wrong yet."

, owned by Chester and Mary Broman, is by the world-renowned sire A.P. Indy, out of the multiple Grade 1-winning mare Antespend. After finishing sixth in his career debut in July at Saratoga, Friends Lake returned a month later to win a Saratoga maiden race by a head. He then made a quantum leap to win his only subsequent start, the Oct. 13 Sleepy Hollow at Belmont, a one-mile race restricted to New York-breds. Friends Lake earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure in that 3 1/2-length triumph.

Kimmel said the 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull "is the first test to see whether he's going to match up with the rest. Everybody knows that this is the time you've got to start proving yourself. I'm actually kind of excited about seeing where he fits."

If workouts are any indication, Friends Lake could be a major force in what is shaping out to be a short- to mid-sized field in the Grade 3 Holy Bull, the first two-turn stakes for 3-year-olds at the Gulfstream meet. After getting a short break following the Sleepy Hollow, Friends Lake posted four solid workouts at Payson Park, then was shipped to Gulfstream last weekend for a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.

"I took him down there to see how he handled the ship," said Kimmel. "I didn't want to have any unknown variables. He did everything real easy. He's a fit horse going into this race."

Richard Migliore will be in from New York to retain the mount on Friends Lake.

The Holy Bull figures to have Second of June and Silver Wagon as the favorites, followed by Friends Lake. The other known probables are Twice as Bad, Smoocher, and Hitthegroundrunning.

Funny Cide, the New York-bred who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness last year for Sackatoga Stable and trainer Barclay Tagg, made his 2003 debut in the Holy Bull, finishing fifth after getting a wide trip from the outside post in a 13-horse field.

The Holy Bull serves as a prep for the Feb. 14 Fountain of Youth, a Grade 2 race that is expected to get the unbeaten Sir Oscar and either Eurosilver or Birdstone.