Updated on 09/17/2011 12:04PM

Funny Cide relaxes in Haskell workout

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Funny Cide and regular excercise rider Robin Smullen at Saratoga. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner worked six furlongs in 1:12.47 Sunday in preparation for the Haskell.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - In his last workout before the Belmont Stakes, Funny Cide drilled five furlongs in a blistering 57.82 seconds. Some believe that work was too fast and in part cost Funny Cide, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, the Belmont and his chance to win the Triple Crown.

In his last workout before Sunday's $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park, a more manageable Funny Cide put in a solid six-furlong move in 1:12.47 over Saratoga's main track.

Funny Cide appeared more relaxed in his move and seemed willing to work with exercise rider Robin Smullen. It resulted in more sensible fractions of 12.66 seconds, 24.30, 35.61, 47.62, and 1:12.47. Funny Cide galloped out seven furlongs in 1:25.83 and was up a mile in 1:40.69. Smullen barely moved her hands on Funny Cide during the move, which was done shortly after the track opened at 5:30 Sunday morning. The track was rated fast.

"It's obvious he's matured, because you could never ordinarily go in 24 for the first quarter," Smullen said. "We put a snaffle bit back on him with no figure-eight, and he's just as relaxed as he could be. I thought it was a great work. He got a tiny bit tired, but if you're not getting tired, you're not getting what you want out of your work."

In another example of how much more manageable Funny Cide has become, Smullen said that Funny Cide has been galloping in company the right way around the track since he arrived in Saratoga. At Belmont, he would often canter by himself the wrong way.

Funny Cide will kick off the second half of the season in the Haskell against a quality field that will include Peace Rules, Wild and Wicked, and Sky Mesa. Other definites include Iowa Derby winner Excessivepleasure, Cool Humor, and Max Forever.

The Haskell, post positions for which will be drawn Thursday, is one of two races held Sunday that will help shape the field for Saratoga's $1 million Travers on Aug. 23. The Grade 2, $500,000 Jim Dandy at Saratoga will include Belmont winner Empire Maker, Swaps winner During, Dwyer Stakes one-two finishers Strong Hope and Nacheezmo, and recent allowance winners Congrats and Tafaseel. Christine's Outlaw and Saint Liam are considered questionable.

Funny Cide won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness by being able to sit just off the pace, which in both races was established by Peace Rules. In the Belmont Stakes, run over a sloppy track, Funny Cide was the pacesetter and ran an opening six furlongs in 1:13.51. He was eventually caught by Empire Maker, who won the Belmont by three-quarters of a length over Ten Most Wanted.

Tagg said he thinks Funny Cide is a better horse when he has something to track.

"In those caliber races, he is," Tagg said. "There wasn't any pace in the Belmont at all. I don't know what happened in the Belmont. I don't know whether he didn't like the mud or he didn't like being restrained - he doesn't like restraint and he had to be restrained. I'm not blaming [Jose] Santos; if you can get [1:13.51 for three-quarters] and nobody's going past you, why wouldn't you? But under all that restraint I don't think he liked it. I don't know if that tired him out or the mud tired him out."

Tagg has repeatedly said it took only four days for Funny Cide to get over his rigorous Triple Crown campaign. Still, Funny Cide didn't do much on the track for several weeks after the Belmont.

When Tagg was ready to get serious with him, he had to wait, as Funny Cide developed a cut in his mouth from being too aggressive in a morning gallop. Smullen said Funny Cide still has some mouth problems.

"He's got little sores in his mouth, so I try not to pull on the reins," Smullen said. "The whole time I'm saying 'whoa, whoa, whoa,' and I don't want his mouth to open up. He kind of slows down on his own without slamming on the brakes."

Sunday's move was the fourth for Funny Cide since the Belmont. While Smullen said Funny Cide is getting fitter, the Haskell is designed to get him ready for the Travers.

"He's a little lighter than you'd like him going into this race, 'cause he's not 100 percent going into this race," Smullen said. "We want him 100 percent going into the Travers."

Albarado to ride Sky Mesa

In other Haskell news, Robby Albarado has picked up the mount on Sky Mesa, trainer John Ward confirmed Monday.

"I told Robby if he rode him like he rode Mineshaft, it's going to be a great day," said Ward, referring to one of the country's top handicap horses, trained by Neil Howard. "They both have very similar running styles, and Mr. Howard and I have very similar training styles, so it shouldn't be a problem."

Ward said Sky Mesa would probably van down to Monmouth early Saturday morning.