06/05/2005 11:00PM

Funny Cide flunks turf test

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Funny Cide, under Jose Santos, wins the 2004 Jockey Club Gold Cup. He will be in action on Saturday in the Brooklyn Handicap.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Ghostzapper's brilliance in the Metropolitan Handicap still resonates on the Belmont Park backstretch. So much so that the connections of 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide were prompted to work their champion gelding on the turf Sunday morning in hopes of opening up another avenue and thus avoiding a confrontation with Ghostzapper later in the year.

Unfortunately, plans to race Funny Cide on the turf were scrapped after he worked a slow five furlongs in 1:02.01 over Belmont Park's inner turf course Sunday morning. Thus, Funny Cide will remain on the dirt and make

his next start in Saturday's $250,000 Brooklyn Handicap. With Giacomo running in the Belmont Stakes on the same day, fans will be afforded the rare opportunity of watching two Kentucky Derby winners compete on the same card.

Robin Smullen, assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg, admitted that Sunday's turf work was prompted by Ghostzapper's awesome victory in the May 30 Met Mile. Smullen said the long-term goal for Funny Cide is the Breeders' Cup Classic, to be run here on Oct. 29. That's the same goal for Ghostzapper.

"That's why we did it," Smullen said. "Ghostzapper is probably the best horse anyone's seen in a very long time according to his numbers - according to his performances - and you try to avoid him as long as you can."

Jose Santos worked Funny Cide Sunday morning. Neither Smullen nor Tagg were happy with Funny Cide's work. It was the second time Funny Cide worked on turf. On Sept. 24, 2003, Funny Cide worked five furlongs in 1:03 over soft ground.

"He just plain doesn't like the turf," Smullen said.

Given the schedule trainer Bobby Frankel has mapped out for Ghostzapper, Funny Cide could easily avoid Ghostzapper until the Breeders' Cup Classic. With Ghostzapper pointing to the Whitney at Saratoga on Aug. 6, and the Woodward at Belmont on Sept. 10, Funny Cide could run in the Brooklyn, Suburban, Saratoga Breeders' Cup, and Jockey Club Gold Cup without meeting him.

The Brooklyn will be Funny Cide's second start of the year. He finished fourth behind Eddington in the Pimlico Special on May 20.

Funny Cide will be the starting highweight in the Brooklyn at 119 pounds. Others expected to run, and their weight assignments, include Gygistar (117), Spite the Devil (113), Chowder's First (113), Rogue Agent (112), and Royal Assault (112). Trainer Todd Pletcher is considering running either Pollard's Vision (118) or Limehouse (115).

Zakocity, who won the William Donald Schaefer Handicap on Preakness Day, was to have run in the Brooklyn, but he was recently sold and has been moved from trainer Pat Reynolds' barn to Laurie Lafavers'. It is unclear whether Zakocity will remain in this country or ship overseas to race.

Luxury Ride to try Fashion

Luxury Ride was a 12-1 longshot when she won her maiden at Churchill on May 15, but she could be one of the horses to beat in Thursday's $75,000 Fashion Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

Luxury Ride, a daughter of Pulpit, won a five-furlong maiden race by two lengths, running five furlongs in 59.02 seconds. She did it while breaking from the outside post in a 10-horse field and showed a strong late foot under Mark Guidry.

"I thought she was very impressive, really professional," trainer Dale Romans said. "There were some real speedy horses in there and she laid right off of them, and when Mark called on her she was there for him."

Jerry Bailey will ride Luxury Ride on Thursday. Five Star Holding, who beat males in her debut and finished second to males again in the Three Chimneys Juvenile, heads the field. Others pointing to the race are Fifth Avenue, Flame Stitch, Stolen Prayer, and Successful Romance.

Rose to ride at Belmont all week

Jeremy Rose, the jockey on Afleet Alex, will be riding in the Belmont Stakes for the first time on Saturday, but he will get plenty of experience here all week, with mounts on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. That is in contrast to Stewart Elliott, who did not ride at Belmont Park in the days preceding last year's Belmont Stakes. Elliott had only one mount on the Belmont undercard, then later in the day finished second with Smarty Jones, who was going for a sweep of the Triple Crown.

Rose's Belmont schedule pleases Tim Ritchey, the trainer of Afleet Alex, who on Monday said he wanted Rose to get "as many mounts as he can get just to get experience over this racetrack because it's so much bigger."

McLaughlin runners tune up

Musfantar, who is scheduled to run in the Grade 1 Manhattan Handicap for older horses on the turf on Saturday, worked four furlong on the turf at Saratoga's Oklahoma training facility Monday morning in 52.37 seconds.

Mustanfar's trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, was at Belmont Park, where he watched Becrux work a half-mile in 50.04 seconds in preparation for his United States debut in the Grade 3 Hill Prince Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf on Friday. Becrux, a listed stakes winner last year in Italy, has not raced since finishing last in the United Arab Emirates Derby.

Eye of the Tiger, who won last year's Washington Park Handicap for McLaughlin, is preparing for a comeback. He worked a half-mile in 48.53 seconds on Monday.

"He's had a few little problems," McLaughlin said. "We thought we'd let some of the others knock heads and bring him back fresh."

Pletcher females stay sharp

Ashado, Colony Band, and Isola Piu Bella - three top older females trained by Todd Pletcher - all worked Monday at Belmont Park in preparation for upcoming stakes.

Ashado, last year's champion 3-year-old filly, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.43. She has lost twice since her victory in last year's Breeders' Cup Distaff, but will seek to end that streak in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Handicap on June 18.

Colony Band worked slightly faster, five furlongs in 1:00.24. Pletcher said she would make her next start in either the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs on June 18, or await the Grade 2 Molly Pitcher Breeders' Cup Handicap at Monmouth on July 9.

Isola Piu Bella also worked five furlongs, in 1:02.63. Pletcher said she will go to Delaware Park for the Obeah Handicap on June 18, and then the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap on July 17.

* Spun Sugar, the winner of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes at Pimlico on May 20, worked four furlongs in 50.64 seconds on Monday at Belmont Park for Pletcher.

* Also working Monday was Ruler's Court, the winner of the 2003 Norfolk Stakes, who was timed in 37.07 seconds for three furlongs. Ruler's Court missed all of 2004, and most recently ran 10th in the Dubai World Cup in March. He is owned by Godolphin Racing Inc., whose trainer is Saeed bin Suroor. Suroor's New York-based assistant is Rick Mettee.

* When Vagabond Saint won Sunday's third race, it broke an 0-for-28 start at the meet for trainer Scott Lake.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman