09/11/2003 11:00PM

Funny Cide relaxed in work


ELMONT, N.Y. - Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide got down to serious business Friday at Belmont Park when he had his first work since Aug. 19.

Under exercise rider Robin Smullen, Funny Cide covered a half-mile in 48.26 seconds, breezing, over the main track, which was listed as fast.

The early fractions on Funny Cide's work, according to the clockers, were 12.60 for the first furlong and 24.40 for the opening quarter-mile. Funny Cide galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.30.

Unlike in some of his works before the Belmont Stakes that took place when the track opened at 5:30 a.m., Funny Cide was one of the first workers when the track reopened after the renovation break at 8:45.

Barclay Tagg, Funny Cide's trainer, said he was happy with the work because Funny Cide was relaxed. During the Triple Crown, the New York-bred Funny Cide was headstrong in many of his breezes.

"We've been galloping him in draw reins to relax him," Tagg said. "We spend all our time trying to keep him relaxed."

With Funny Cide's first work out of the way, Tagg is still undecided about the gelding's next start. Funny Cide hasn't raced since finishing third in the Haskell at Monmouth Park on Aug. 3. He had a fever after the Haskell and then was scratched from the Travers because of mucus in his trachea.

Tagg said if Funny Cide remains healthy, he could race again soon, preferably against 3-year-olds. Although his goal is to win the 3-year-old championship with Funny Cide, Tagg said he is not thinking about running in the Breeders' Cup.

Tagg lamented the timing of the Jerome, one of four stakes on Saturday's card.

"I would have loved if the Jerome was run two weeks from now," he said. "The opportunities to run in 3-year-old races are dwindling."

Tagg said the grass remains an option for Funny Cide.

Back-up plan for Volponi

Volponi, last year's Breeders' Cup Classic winner, was entered to run in Saturday's $200,000 Belmont Breeders' Cup on the grass. As a back-up plan if the turf was soft on Saturday, trainer Phil Johnson entered Volponi in a money allowance race on the dirt on Sunday's card. Rain was in the forecast and Johnson didn't want to run Volponi, who only has run on firm turf courses, on soft ground.

If the 1 1/8-mile Belmont BC was taken off the turf and run on the main track, Johnson was going to run in that race instead of Sunday's 1 1/16-mile allowance race.

If he starts, Volponi is the one to beat in the $58,000 allowance race, which drew seven horses and will be run as the ninth race on a 10-race card.

Also entered are Almuhathir, a winner of back-to-back starts in allowance races at Belmont, and Gander, the New York-bred horse of the year in 2000.

Another contender, Way to the Top, earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 106 when he won a Saratoga allowance race over a wet track in August.

Gander, who will race without blinkers for the first time since May 2002, has lost his last three starts. Gander experienced stifle problems this summer, but Tonja Terranova, the wife and assistant of Gander's trainer, John Terranova, said the gelding is over that now.

Sulamani preps for Turf Classic

Friday, Sulamani had his first published workout since he was placed first in the Arlington Million on Aug. 16. Sulamani, who is being pointed to the $750,000 Turf Classic on Sept. 27, covered five furlongs in 1:01.02 on the main track.

Tom Albertrani, Godolphin's New York-based trainer, said Sulamani doesn't carry a lot of weight, so he wasn't pushed hard in his training after the Arlington Million.

"He's a very lean horse and we just wanted to give him a little time to put on weight after his last race," Albertrani said. "He looks better now."