06/09/2004 11:00PM

Funny Cide in Mass Cap - if things go right

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EAST BOSTON, Mass. - When Suffolk Downs management decided to move the Massachusetts Handicap from Memorial Day weekend to next Saturday, they were hoping to bring the race back from a one-year hiatus with a bang. It would appear they have succeeded, with word that last year's Derby and Preakness winner, Funny Cide, is pointing to the race.

Suffolk moved the date of the Grade 2, $500,000 event about two months ago in the hopes of attracting the Sackatoga Stable hero to Boston. If trainer Barclay Tagg is happy with the field, weight, and weather, Funny Cide will look to follow in the footsteps of Cigar, Skip Away, Whirlaway, and Seabiscuit - all winners of the Mass Cap.

"We're planning on coming to Boston, but it's not carved in stone," said Tagg, who made it clear Funny Cide won't run in very hot weather when he was scratched from the Pimlico Special on May 14. "We'll see what kind of field there is and what the weather is like. I've got to get him winning again. He's had some tough races this year, and I'm looking for an easier spot for him to get him back going.

"Not that a race of that stature is necessarily easy. That's why we'll have to wait and see how the field is."

Funny Cide exits a fifth-place finish in the Met Mile, won by Pico Central. At the time, Tagg said the performance pretty much established that Funny Cide was not a miler. The Mass Cap distance of 1 1/8 miles should be right up his alley.

If Funny Cide starts, it might be the closest he comes to racing near the upstate New York home of his owners, because Tagg has concerns about the hot summer weather at Saratoga.

"I'm planning on giving him the summer off," said Tagg. "He just doesn't like the hot weather."

Funny Cide's last victory came over Evening Attire in the Excelsior Handicap at Aqueduct in April. Evening Attire is also expected to start in the Mass Cap for his Boston-area owners, Joseph and Mary Grant. Evening Attire finished second in the 2002 Mass Cap behind Macho Uno.

Other possible starters are Bowman's Band and Gygistar, both exiting losses in the Met Mile. Trainer Steve Klesaris is weighing options with Angelic Aura and Private Lap. Alumni Hall and another 2003 Derby starter, Offlee Wild, are expected to come from Kentucky. Locally owned The Lady's Groom and Ground Storm are pointing toward the Mass Cap, while On the Game is one of the few Suffolk-based horses who may join the fray. Rogue Agent's connections have been contemplating making the trip since the horse's recent allowance victory in New York.

Also on the Mass Cap card will be the $200,000 Moseley Handicap at six furlongs, with graded-stakes winners Gators N Bears, Valid Video, and defending champion Peeping Tom expected to compete. Trainer Todd Pletcher nominated Alke, who was second in the Dubai Golden Shaheen in his last race, and Forest Danger, but has not disclosed his plans to Suffolk officials.

Turf course ready for racing

The turf course here has been a gorgeous emerald green all meet, but may finally see its pristine state disturbed with the arrival of the first grass stakes of the season - Saturday's $40,000 My Fair Lady Stakes for fillies and mares.

Rain and lingering damage from the sinkhole reconstruction on the main track prior to the meet has kept horses off the turf course, despite races being carded for the grass starting last week. The My Fair Lady was originally scheduled to be run on Memorial Day.

Haley's Classic, trained by Jonathan Sheppard, and Music Way, trained by Christophe Clement, will be formidable if they ship in to take on defending champion Island Melody and the streaking Dania Bay.

Handicapping contest at Hinsdale

In addition to Saturday's DRF/NTRA handicapping contest at Suffolk, New England tournament enthusiasts will be able to join a $10,000 event at Hinsdale Greyhound Park on June 17.

The $100 buy-in contest at the southwestern New Hampshire track will return all of the entry fees as prizes.