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Funny Cide looking ready
BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - Funny Cide gave every indication he is ready for a big effort in Saturday's $500,000 Donn Handicap after working five furlongs in 59.30 seconds at Palm Meadows training center on Tuesday.
Funny Cide, the Eclipse Award winner as best 3-year-old male of 2003, was the most prominent name on Tuesday's busy and star-studded work tab at Palm Meadows. Among the other major stakes winners to work during the course of the morning were Kentucky Derby hopefuls Read the Footnotes, Birdstone, and The Cliff's Edge; Donn candidate Seattle Fitz and his graded-stakes-winning stablemate Randaroo, who will compete in Sunday's Shirley Jones Handicap; several of trainer Todd Pletcher's seemingly endless line of stakes horse, including Balto Star, Chapel Royal, and Ashado; the speedy New York-bred Well Fancied and his stablemate Saint Liam, who leaves Wednesday for Fair Grounds, where he will compete in the Feb. 29 New Orleans Handicap.
Funny Cide came onto the track immediately after the renovation break at 9:15 a.m with regular rider Robin Smullen aboard and spent several minutes warming up on the outer jogging strip. He then returned to the main course and broke off shortly thereafter, working in fractions of 24.08, 35.75 and 48.06 seconds before galloping out six furlongs in 1:12.12 and pulling up seven-eighths in 1:23.44, with Smullen never asking him to extend himself at any point.
"He's doing well. He's been doing everything right," said trainer Barclay Tagg. "He was a little laggard out there today because he doesn't like the hot weather. It was getting pretty warm by the time he finally worked. If it's too hot Saturday, over 85, I'll scratch him and wait for the New Orleans Handicap."
Tagg said he had originally planned on Funny Cide having his final work for the Grade 1 Donn on Sunday, but said pushing it back 48 hours should be of little consequence.
"Sunday would have been the ideal day, but even as nice as this track is I didn't want to risk it after all the rain we had," said Tagg. "And I skipped Monday because Robin was away all day."
Funny Cide, an easy winner of an allowance race in his 2004 debut, will vie for favoritism in the 1 1/8-mile Donn with Medaglia d'Oro. A field of seven or eight is shaping up for the race, which will also include Puzzlement, Bowman's Band, Predawn Raid, The Judge Sez Who, Seattle Fitz, and possibly Country Be Good.
Seattle Fitz also had his final tune-up for the Donn on Tuesday, breezing an easy half-mile in 48.40 seconds just moments before Funny Cide worked. Seattle Fitz is trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for the West Point Thoroughbred Stable.
"Obviously this is shaping up as a tough spot." said McLaughlin, "but he seems to have come out of his last race very good, is doing extremely well at the moment and this is an opportunity to run for a $500,000 purse."
Seattle Fitz shipped down from New York shortly after upsetting Evening Attire to win the Grade 3 Aqueduct Handicap on Jan. 17.
Read the Footnotes looks good
Read the Footnotes was as impressive as Funny Cide when he worked six furlongs in 1:12.37 early Tuesday morning under regular exercise rider Morna McDowall. Read the Footnotes, a winner of 4 of his 5 starts at 2, will make his 3-year-old debut a week from Saturday in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth Stakes.
Read the Footnotes broke off at the five-furlong pole and posted fractions of 23.90, 35.63, 47.75, and 59.84 seconds, completing his work around the turn at the one-mile pole. He then galloped out seven furlongs in 1:26.34 before pulling up a mile in an impressive 1:41.58.
"I'm very happy with the way he went," said trainer Rick Violette. "And I loved the way the track was this morning - fast and safe but deep enough for him to get something out of it. He got a little tired, which is what I was looking for 11 days out from the race. It's a dangerous line training a young horse up to his first race of the year like this. You don't want him too fit where he runs his eyeballs out and bounces the next time, but fit enough so he'll be able to progress off the race. Remember, the Fountain of Youth is not our primary objective."
Read the Footnotes will face Second of June, Silver Wagon, the undefeated Sir Oscar, and several recent allowance winners in the Fountain of Youth.
Zito pair close to '04 debuts
Neither Birdstone nor The Cliff's Edge will run in the Fountain of Youth but both are getting close to their 3-year-old debuts for trainer Nick Zito.
Birdstone was the first of the pair to work Tuesday, going six furlongs in 1:15.40 while breezing alone. The Cliff's Edge went a more conservative five-eighths in 1:02.40 in company with stablemate Greedy Executive.
"Birdstone went a little faster than I'd have liked," said Zito. "But he's getting ready to run, and he's where I want to be now. The Cliff's Edge is a heavier horse who has filled out since he last ran on Nov. 30, and he may take a little longer to get ready. He's only eligible for a never-won-three allowance race, so I may have to take him out of town for his first start. I'm trying to be extra careful with all these horses at this time of the year, but I'm still counting and there are a lot more days to go until May."
Chilean champ to be unveiled
Pletcher will unveil the newest of his big guns when he sends out Host to make his U.S. debut against With Anticipation and Del Mar Show in Thursday's allowance feature.
Host was purchased privately by owners Laura and Eugene Melnyk following the conclusion of his 3-year-old campaign, during which he won 5 of 6 starts and was named both the champion 3-year-old and horse of the year in his native Chile.
"He came to me on Dec. 1, and it took him a little while to get acclimated to a different hemisphere, but he's trained extremely well up here and we have high hopes for him," said Pletcher. "He caught a tough spot against a couple of Grade 1 types for his first start here, and hopefully he'll prove good enough to win the race."