10/14/2002 11:00PM

Funny Cide sticks with statebreds


ELMONT, N.Y. - Yes, trainer Barclay Tagg will admit, he was tempted. But when Tuesday's noon deadline passed for pre-entries for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, Tagg resisted putting his exciting New York-bred Funny Cide in the $1 million Juvenile.

Thus, Tagg will stick to his original plan of running Funny Cide in Saturday's $100,000 Sleepy Hollow, one of seven stakes for statebreds on New York Showcase Day at Belmont Park. Funny Cide, who has won his first two starts by a combined 23 3/4 lengths, looms a heavy favorite against four or five rivals.

Tagg said several people - most notably trainer John Kimmel - suggested that he run Funny Cide in the Juvenile for the chance to win a championship. But, with only two sprint races under Funny Cide's belt and the Juvenile being run at nine furlongs this year, Tagg deferred to his conservative side.

"The upside is it's a million dollars and it's the Breeders' Cup,'' said Tagg, who trains Funny Cide for Jackson Knowlton's Sackatoga Stable. "But that doesn't outweigh the downside. The downside is he's had two sprints and all the other horses have had more races and some of them have run almost as good a Beyer Speed Figure. Plus, he's never had to ship. There are too many guessing parts of it for me. I'm looking at hopefully a big year next year.''

Funny Cide earned a 103 Beyer Speed Figure winning the Bertram F. Bongard Stakes at seven furlongs. That equals Sky Mesa, the probable favorite for the Juvenile, for the highest Beyer earned by a 2-year-old this year.

Tuesday, Tagg watched Jose Santos guide Funny Cide through a five-furlong workout in 59 seconds. Track clockers only credited him with a half-mile move in 48 seconds.

New York-bred heavyweights in action

In addition to the rising star Funny Cide, two statebred veterans, Gander and Say Florida Sandy, will be in action Saturday.

Gander, recent runner-up in the Grade 1 Woodward, will be the 126-pound starting highweight in the $250,000 Empire Classic. Gander was scratched out of the Meadowlands Cup on Oct. 4 because of a bloody nose. But, he seems to have recovered nicely and on Tuesday breezed four furlongs in 48.25 seconds over Belmont's main track.

"It was just a little tune-up,'' trainer John Terranova said. "He's doing wonderful. There's no reoccurrence of that bloody nose.''

Terranova is a little leery of the 126-pound weight assignment for Gander, who will be conceding from six to 16 pounds to what is shaping up to be a full field. Among those being considered for the nine-furlong race are Sherpa Guide (120), Compelling World (117), Mount Intrepid (117), No Parole (116), Personal Pro (116), Brave One (115), Running Today (114), Mr. Determined (113), Thebigapple (113), Lord ofthe Thunder (112), and J's Wild Slew (110).

Meanwhile, owner John Rotella has decided to run Say Florida Sandy - the richest New York-bred in history - in the $150,000 Hudson Handicap at six furlongs. Rotella said he is not happy with the 123-pound weight assignment for Sandy, but opted to run here rather than wait for the seven-furlong Sport Page Handicap on Oct. 26 at Aqueduct.

"It's carrying two more pounds than I'd like, but I'm leaning toward taking the two pounds rather than the seven-eighths,'' Rotella said. "I'm taking the lesser of two evils.''

Alchemilla returns in Thursday feature

Alchemilla, who appeared to be stakes-bound in the spring before being stopped by injury, returns Thursday in a third-level allowance race at 1 1/16 miles. She will face four rivals in the $52,000 race.

A 3-year-old filly, Alchemilla won three of her first four starts, including a second-level allowance race by 6 3/4 lengths on May 10. But, trainer Shug McGaughey had to stop on her because of an ankle injury.

Alchemilla only shows three workouts leading up to her return, and she could face some early pace pressure.

Willie's Luv rates an upset chance especially if the track comes up wet. Willie's Luv is 2 for 2 on wet tracks, both wins coming in minor stakes at Monmouth and Philadelphia Park.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson