01/31/2006 12:00AM

Funny Cide gives it another go

"He's working good, feeling good, and training well." - Barclay Tagg, trainer of Funny Cide

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - It is going on three years since Funny Cide was the toast of racing with his bid for the Triple Crown. Smarty Jones took his place as racing's darling in 2004, and then last year it was Afleet Alex. Those two have both been retired to stud duty, but the 2003 Kentucky Derby winner marches on. As a gelding, it's either racing or retirement, but no funny business, for Funny Cide.

There has not been much to laugh about with Funny Cide lately, however. Since his victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup in October 2004, Funny Cide has raced just five times, and has finished out of the money each time. A bad back compromised his schedule last year, and though it remains a source of concern, Funny Cide's trainer, Barclay Tagg, is hopeful that Funny Cide still has some good races in him.

"He's working good, feeling good, and training well," Tagg said at his Gulfstream Park barn on Tuesday morning.

On Thursday at Gulfstream, Funny Cide will try to get back to the winner's circle in the day's feature race, a $46,000 money allowance that drew another survivor of the Triple Crown wars, Sun King. They head a field of seven older horses in the one-turn mile race.

and tired to finish seventh in the eight-horse field.

"I was hoping to bring him back in the kind of race he's in on Thursday," Tagg said, "but there wasn't anything, so I had to run him six furlongs. They went 1:08 and change, which is just too fast for him coming off a layoff. He's an older horse now, so he's probably going to have to be raced into shape."

Funny Cide looked well on Tuesday morning, with giant dapples bursting through his chestnut-colored coat. But whether pretty is as pretty does is another question.

"Whether he'll run good, I don't know," Tagg said.

Funny Cide raced just three times last year. After returning in the on the Belmont Stakes undercard. But he was forced to check sharply going into the far turn, and emerged from the race with a sore back, Tagg said.

"We thought we had fixed it, but in his next race, Jerry Bailey said he wouldn't pick his feet up, and a couple days later he was walking like an old man with a bad back," Tagg said. "We'd work on it with a chiropractor, but he'd still walk around with a hollowed-out back. We decided to stop and just walk him twice a day for 45 days.

"We do a lot of chiropractic work with him, massage therapy. We still do that religiously."

Sun King had an ambitious 2005 campaign, with 10 starts from February through October. He disappointed in such races as the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but won the Pennsylvania Derby and Tampa Bay Derby, and was third in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. After a ninth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic, he was freshened. And though Nick Zito, his trainer, rarely works his horses quickly, had a best-of-the-morning drill at Palm Meadows last Friday.

"He's doing extremely well," Zito said at Gulfstream. "He had a long year last year. He rebounded nicely after the Preakness, put a couple of good races together, like winning the Pennsylvania Derby coming from the 14 post. He even ran great in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. But after that race, and the Breeders' Cup - they're both a mile and a quarter - he needed a rest.

"Going a mile is a good spot to bring him back. The race came up tough, but like they told me as a kid, they only give you one thing for free in Florida - the sunshine."

Of the other runners in the race, is the most intriguing. He finished sixth in the Mr. Prospector, but won three of his previous five starts.