03/24/2004 1:00AM

Funny Cide back in N.Y. soon


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Funny Cide moved one step closer to his homecoming Wednesday morning by breezing six furlongs in 1:11.20 at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida. It was his penultimate move before shipping back to New York next week, where he is expected to start in the Grade 3, $200,000 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap on April 3 at Aqueduct.

Funny Cide, last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, will most likely breeze again on Tuesday at Palm Meadows before shipping to his Belmont Park home later that day. Last April, Funny Cide punched his ticket to the Derby by running a strong second to Empire Maker in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. The Excelsior, like the Wood, will be run at nine furlongs.

Funny Cide has already made three starts this year, winning a classified allowance race on Jan. 10 at Gulfstream before finishing third in the Donn and New Orleans handicaps. Funny Cide was bumped hard entering the first turn in the New Orleans Handicap, and trainer Barclay Tagg was happy enough with the gelding's performance to keep him in route races.

Wednesday's work was Funny Cide's third since the New Orleans Handicap.

"So far, so good - he worked really well," Tagg said from Florida. "I guess we're on schedule. He'll breeze on [Tuesday] and ship later that day. He'll just go an easy half. He's been doing fine."

Tagg said he is looking forward to racing Funny Cide in New York again. Funny Cide hasn't run in New York since his Triple Crown bid was quashed by Empire Maker in the Belmont Stakes last June.

"I'd like to win in New York with him if we could," Tagg said.

A good performance in the Excelsior would set up Funny Cide for a start in the Grade 1 Pimlico Special on May 15.

Among the 21 horses nominated to the Excelsior, those expected to run against Funny Cide are Evening Attire, Ground Storm, Host, Saarland, and Snake Mountain. Possible runners include Nothing Flat, Ole Faunty, and Rogue Agent.

Lucifer's Stone points to Appalachian

Lucifer's Stone, the impressive winner of the Herecomesthebride Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 28, will make her next start in the $100,000 Appalachian Stakes at Keeneland on April 14, trainer Linda Rice said.

Rice, at Belmont Park overseeing her New York string, said that Lucifer's Stone would remain at Palm Meadows for two more weeks before shipping to Keeneland on April 6. Rice is also targeting the Sands Point Handicap at Belmont on June 13. Hollywood Park holds the Grade 1, $750,000 American Oaks on July 3, but Rice seems content to keep Lucifer's Stone on the East Coast, though she didn't rule out a trip to Hollywood.

"There are a lot of opportunities in New York in the summer and fall," Rice said.

Saintliness earns shot at stakes

Saintliness, who successfully if not spectacularly passed her two-turn test on Sunday, will most likely get a chance to run in a stakes race next, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. When and where that will happen remains a mystery.

"She's a quality filly, stakes caliber," said McLaughlin, who trains Saintliness for Frank Stronach. "Mr. Stronach is a very patient man in the business. He told me not to get in a hurry with her."

Saintliness, a 4-year-old daughter of Holy Bull, won her first two starts at six furlongs over the inner track. Monday, she stretched out to nine furlongs over the muddy main track and went gate to wire. She ran nine furlongs in 1:54.67 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 81.

"That was nice," McLaughlin said. "It was a short field, not a lot in there, but she did it the right way."

McLaughlin also confirmed that Mustanfar, the second-place finisher in the Tampa Bay Derby, will make his next start in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 10. Richard Migliore will ride. McLaughlin said that Shadwell Stable, owner of Mustanfar, has put up the $6,000 to make the colt eligible for the Triple Crown.

Will Quigley bounce in feature?

Quigley returned from a 50-week layoff to win an allowance race by 2 1/2 lengths here on March 7. He ran six furlongs in 1:09.34 and earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 98.

Quigley returns on Friday on just 19 days' rest, making him a strong bounce candidate. He faces only four rivals, however, and two of those are coming off long layoffs themselves.

Quigley, trained by Steve Klesaris, figures to get a stalking trip just outside Farno, who returns from a nine-month layoff for trainer Frank Generazio. Farno, who won the Tyro Stakes in 2002, has started only once in the last 19 months. He won an entry-level allowance race in gate-to-wire fashion at Monmouth last June. He shows some solid works and gets Jorge Chavez for his return.

Absent Friend makes his first start since December and first for trainer John Parisella. He finished third in the Iowa Derby last July. Heneresa and Uncalculated complete the field.

Two pick-six tickets pay $215,911

There were two winning tickets in the pick six on Wednesday, each returning $215,911. There was a two-day pick six carryover of $124,697 entering the card. The winning combination of 8-5-6-7-4-5 included Daysman ($10.20), One Tough Dude ($5.70), Grantmeatrophy ($8.40), Judy Soda ($19.40), Trick Again ($37.40), and Sophisticated Man ($14.80).

Both winning tickets were purchased through the TVG hub in Oregon, according to mutuel officials with the New York Racing Association.

There were 59 consolation tickets for five of six, each returning $1,735.