02/16/2004 12:00AM

Funny Cide makes run at New Orleans

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Funny Cide, the champion 3-year-old who finished third in the Donn Handicap in his 4-year-old debut, will most likely make his next start in the Grade 2, $500,000 New Orleans Handicap on Feb. 29, trainer Barclay Tagg said Monday.

Following the Donn, in which Funny Cide was beaten 8 1/2 lengths by Medaglia d'Oro, Tagg said he would consider shortening Funny Cide to one-turn races such as the seven-furlong Richter Scale here March 6. For now, Tagg has decided to keep Funny Cide routing.

"I thought about the Richter Scale, but unless the Louisiana race really comes up extremely hard, I'll give him one more shot at something like that and see where we go from there," Tagg said.

Funny Cide raced at Fair Grounds last year, finishing third behind Peace Rules in the Louisiana Derby. Funny Cide set the pace that day, was passed, and then came back on again.

"Jose [Santos] said he likes that track, and he's not as sure he moves as well on this track [Gulfstream] as the Louisiana track," Tagg said. "I know we won that seven-furlong race impressively, but I never thought he liked Gulfstream. Last year, he was bolting all over it."

Eventful weekend for Bond

Trainer James Bond experienced the highs and lows of racing in a 24-hour span over the weekend.

On Saturday, Bond watched Legislator win for the first time in 21 months when he took a $50,000 claiming race on the turf. Sunday, Bond watched in horror as Bossanova, last November's Fall Highweight Handicap winner, had to be euthanized after breaking both sesamoids in his right foreleg during the running of the Hollie Hughes Handicap at Aqueduct.

In 2002, Legislator won the Grade 3 Crown Royal American Turf Handicap at Churchill Downs. Three weeks later, he stepped in a hole and suffered a condylar fracture as the even-money choice in the USA Stakes at Lone Star Park. He underwent surgery and had five screws inserted into a leg. Saturday marked just his second start since then.

Bond was using Sunday's Hollie Hughes for Bossanova as a prep for the Grade 1 Carter in April. Bond had spent the winter teaching Bossanova, a speedy New York-bred, to rate, and Bossanova appeared to have learned his lessons well in the Hollie Hughes. Just as he was about to take the lead turning for home, however, Bossanova broke down.

"One day you're a hero, the next day you're a bum," Bond said. "Saturday, I brought one back, and I felt great. Yesterday, Bossanova was right where he needed to be."

Keep an eye on Saratoga County

Saratoga County and Forest Danger are not on the Derby trail, but they are a pair of 3-year-olds who merit watching.

Saratoga County suffered through a horrendous trip, yet rallied to be a strong third, beaten only four lengths, in Saturday's Hutcheson Stakes. Forest Danger, another weapon from the Todd Pletcher barn, made an auspicious debut, winning a six-furlong maiden race by 1 1/2 lengths. He covered six furlongs in 1:10.09 and earned a solid Beyer Speed Figure of 91.

Saratoga County, trained by former Pletcher assistant George Weaver, broke inward leaving the gate, then had to check shortly thereafter. And, on a track that was unkind to closers, he rallied eight wide in the stretch to finish third behind Limehouse.

"He might have had a chance to win if he had got away cleanly," Weaver said. "Watching the races, it didn't look like the track was favorable to speed. He's done nothing but run well every time we've run him. He's stepped up and run against some pretty nice horses. We're excited about him."

Weaver said he is likely to resist the temptation to stretch out Saratoga County and may point him to an allowance race and then the $75,000 Hallandale Beach Stakes here April 10. Weaver said he would also consider the Swale Stakes on March 13.

Meanwhile, Forest Danger, a son of Forestry, lived up to his odds-on price and his barn's expectations with his debut victory. A review of the replay, however, had Pletcher even more impressed.

"He got bounced around pretty good," Pletcher said. "For him to overcome that and circle the field and win like that, I expected him to run well, but I was impressed by the fact he overcame a little bit of adversity along the way."

Pletcher said he would look to run Forest Danger back in a seven-furlong race next out. The Swale is a possibility, but Pletcher plans to run the multiple stakes winner Chapel Royal in that spot.

Balto Star is heavyweight

Balto Star, winner of the Red Smith and W.L. McKnight handicaps in his last two starts, will be the 122-pound starting highweight for Sunday's Grade 1, $250,000 Gulfstream Park Breeders' Cup Handicap on Sunday.

On Monday, Balto Star worked a solid six furlongs in 1:13 over the Palm Meadows main track. Balto Star, who has won 11 of 33 starts and earned almost $2 million, will face a field that includes Man From Wicklow (118 pounds), With Anticipation (118), Hard Buck (117), Slew Valley (117), and Request for Parole (116).

Request for Parole, who won the Mac Diarmida in his last start, worked five furlongs in 1:00 Sunday at Palm Meadows.

Brothers sees star in 'Madcap'

The inevitable comparisons to Pulpit began immediately after Madcap Escapade's 10-length debut win here Jan. 4. Trainer Frank Brothers was a bit reticent, however, to put Madcap Escapade in the same league as his former star right off the bat.

But after Madcap Escapade returned with an even more sensational 11 3/4-length victory and set a new stakes record in Saturday's Old Hat, even Brothers was ready to start talking about the two horses in the same breath.

"I've never trained a filly like her," Brothers said of Madcap Escapade. "The last horse I was around who showed the same kind of brilliance was Pulpit. There's no telling how special he'd have been if he could have stayed sound."

Madcap Escapade earned a 108 Beyer Speed Figure in the Old Hat, the same number Pulpit earned when he beat a field of first-level allowance rivals in his second career start.

Pulpit went on to win the Fountain of Youth and finish second in the Grade 1 Florida Derby here in the winter of 1997. Brothers has not decided when Madcap Escapade will make her next start or if she'll even run again here this meet.

"She's nominated to the Forward Gal (March 13) and a couple of races at Keeneland," said Brothers. "The Forward Gal at seven furlongs would be a nice progression for her. She definitely won't run in the Bonnie Miss. I'm not going to stretch her right out to a mile and one-eighth, although I think she has a good chance to run long. She's a big horse with a long stride, and her pedigree is good enough to go two turns."

Brothers said he would sit down with owner Bruce Lunsford and discuss all of the possibilities before making a final decision on Madcap Escapade's next start.

"The toughest part of this game is to find runners, not races," said Brothers. "There are plenty of options around for 3-year-old fillies. Of course, anybody with a nice filly would like to win the Oaks, and if you have one of that class you don't want to miss the boat. So one scenario would be to run her in the Forward Gal, and if all went well, try stretching her out in the Ashland."

If Madcap Escapade starts in the Forward Gal, it would set up an intriguing confrontation with Ashado, runner-up to division leader Halfbridled in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Trainer Todd Pletcher has targeted the Grade 2 Forward Gal for Ashado's 3-year-old debut.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch