01/04/2006 12:00AM

Funny Cide to make 2006 debut in sprint

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Funny Cide will run Saturday in the six-furlong Mr. Prospector - and not the 1 1/8-mile Hal's Hope.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Funny Cide hasn't won a race since October 2004 yet his name remains one of the most recognizable in the sport, still conjuring memories of his outstanding 3-year-old campaign, highlighted by victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Now 6, and among the elder statesmen of the handicap division, Funny Cide will try to keep his name in the forefront beginning here Saturday when he launches his comeback in the six-furlong Mr. Prospector Handicap.

Funny Cide followed his much ballyhooed 3-year-old season by banking another $1 million at 4, a year that included a popular victory in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. He has started only four times since then and has not won a race, but trainer Barclay Tagg hopes his star will return as good as ever in 2006.

"Last year was a lost year for him, and we're lucky anything worse didn't happen," said Tagg, referring to a back injury Funny Cide may have first sustained during the Brooklyn Handicap. It sidelined him for the rest of the season after a poor performance in the Suburban.

"But he hasn't missed a lick in his training since getting down here in November, and it doesn't seem like he's lost a step in the morning," Tagg said. "I don't know if he's still a Grade 1 horse or not, but if everything goes well Saturday we'll give him a shot at the Donn and see what happens."

The Grade 1 Donn Handicap will be run here on Feb. 4.

Tagg had two options on Saturday for Funny Cide - the Mr. Prospector or the 1 1/8-mile Hal's Hope. The decision was easy.

"I didn't want to bring him back going a mile and one-eighth in the Hal's Hope because there are some hotshots in there who might make him overextend himself, and I didn't want to knock him out," said Tagg. "He's really not a six-furlong horse. I would really have preferred to start him at seven furlongs or a mile, but I wanted to get a competitive race under his belt, and whether he wins or loses, it shouldn't exhaust him."

Edgar Prado was aboard Funny Cide for a half-mile work in 46.40 seconds on Tuesday and will have the mount in the Mr. Prospector.

Funny Cide will carry 115 pounds, one fewer than co-highweights Friendly Island and Lord of the Game. Other prospective starters are Sir Greeley (114), Gaff (113), War Front (113), and possibly Storm Surge (113).

Other notable Hal's Hope no-go's

Funny Cide is one of several notable defections from among the 22 older horses nominated for the Grade 3 Hal's Hope, along with 119-pound highweights Magna Graduate and Andromeda's Hero. Trainer Todd Pletcher said he planned to train Magna Graduate right into the Donn, while trainer Nick Zito might take a similar path with Andromeda's Hero.

Zito will be represented in the Hal's Hope by Seek Gold, who finished second to Andromeda's Hero in Calder's Grade 3 Fred W. Hooper Handicap in his 2005 finale.

Niigon likely will be the starting highweight under 117 pounds in the Hal's Hope. Also in the field could be Philanthropist (115), Network (114), On Thin Ice (114), Separato (114), Trapped Again (114), Dazzling Dr. Cevin (112), and Zoffinger (112).

Entries for the Hal's Hope, Mr. Prospector, and one-mile Aventura Stakes for 3-year-olds will be drawn along with the rest of Saturday's card on Thursday.

Calder 2-year-old champion In Summation is among the leading candidates for the Aventura in a field that may also include Saint Daimon, Big Lover, Barcola, My Golden Song, Doctor Diehard, Little Cliff, Itsallabouthtechase, and D'broken Speed.

Badge of Silver bound for Dubai

Owner Ken Ramsey's sudden reversal to prolong the racing career of Badge of Silver was sparked by the 6-year-old's sensational victory in the San Gabriel Handicap on Sunday at Santa Anita.

Ramsey said the San Gabriel is a vivid reminder of "just what Badge of Silver is capable of." Before the San Gabriel, Ramsey had planned to stand Badge of Silver at stud at his Nicholasville, Ky., farm.

Badge of Silver, making his turf debut, led all the way to win the 1 1/8-mile San Gabriel by 2 1/2 lengths.

"We've already got major interest in several sires," said Ramsey, who stands Kitten's Joy at his Kentucky farm and kept a financial stake in both Roses in May, whom he recently sold to Japanese interests, and Nothing to Lose, who was bought by Australian interests.

"Badge of Silver has always been one of my favorites, and I really don't think he's ever had a fair chance because of injuries and other health issues," Ramsey said.

Badge of Silver, a winner in 7 of 14 career starts, probably will start next in the $5 million Dubai Duty Free, a 1 1/8-mile turf race March 25 at Nad Al Sheba in Dubai, Ramsey said.

Roses in May won the $6 million Dubai World Cup last March in what turned out to be his career finale.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee