08/18/2003 11:00PM

Funny Cide work raises Travers hopes

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Funny Cide worked four furlongs in 47.82 seconds Tuesday morning at Saratoga and seemed to take a major step toward at least being entered in Saturday's $1 million Travers. However, his entry would be no guarantee that he would run in the race.

The workout was Funny Cide's first since he finished a dull third in the Aug. 3 Haskell Invitational, a race from which he emerged with a 102-degree temperature. Paying the $5,000 entry fee on Wednesday, when post positions were to be drawn, would buy the connections of Funny Cide more time to monitor the gelding and see if there were any defections from the race.

The five definite starters for the Travers are Empire Maker, Sky Mesa, Strong Hope, Ten Most Wanted, and Wild and Wicked.

Tuesday morning, trainer Barclay Tagg said he wanted to see how the horse ate up and how he reacted following the work before deciding to enter Funny Cide. Tuesday afternoon, during a conference call with reporters, Jack Knowlton, the managing partner of Sackatoga Stable, which owns the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, said his outfit was "leaning toward" entering in the Travers.

"If Barclay indicates he would like to have more time to come to his final decision on whether to run or not, we would absolutely put up the $5,000; it's not an issue at all," Knowlton said. "Barclay's not one to throw money around needlessly. If he, [Wednesday] morning says to us I would like to enter, in my mind that means he feels things are moving in the right direction. If they continue moving in the right direction there's certainly a reasonable chance he'd run in the race."

Tagg seemed to indicate that entering in the Travers would be insurance in case Empire Maker, the probable Travers favorite, is withdrawn.

"If Empire Maker scratches and the race fell apart I'd feel kind of stupid not having him in there," Tagg said. "He's a reasonably sound horse, he's in reasonably good condition, he's reasonably healthy now."

In the 13 days that he has trained since the Haskell, Funny Cide had done little more than gallop on the half-mile Clare Court track or jog around the main track. Tuesday, with regular exercise rider Robin Smullen up, Funny Cide worked four furlongs and was timed galloping out in 1:00.40.

"He felt more himself today than he has in a while," Smullen said. "He was relaxed, but of course we were going 47 and change. He didn't grab a hold of the bit wanting to run off or anything like that. I called for the outrider because I didn't want to grab a hold of him because his mouth is so sensitive."

Pletcher juveniles work

Chapel Royal, the undefeated winner of the Sanford Stakes, worked five furlongs in 59.48 seconds Tuesday morning, in company with stablemate Brighton Ridge, who was timed in 1:00.12. Chapel Royal, who also won the Grade 3 Flash Stakes, is being pointed to the Grade 1 Hopeful on April 30.

"I took it easy on him for three weeks and then got backed up because of the rain," said Pletcher, who worked Chapel Royal five furlongs in 59.46 seconds last Tuesday. "But I'm in great shape now. He's getting bigger, strong, and better, and doing really well."

Value Plus, an impressive maiden winner for Pletcher earlier in the meet, worked five furlongs in 1:01.27 by himself. He is being pointed to the Grade 1 Futurity at Belmont on Sept. 14.

Bailey hurt himself water skiing

Jockey Jerry Bailey on Tuesday said that a water skiing injury on Aug. 12 was why he took off his mounts Sunday and Monday at Saratoga. Bailey, who was expected to return to action Wednesday, said he pulled some cartilage in his rib cage and that X-rays taken Monday were negative.

"I was slaloming and there was a boat coming at us," Bailey said Tuesday. "I should have ditched it, but I tried to hang on a little more than I should and it pulled my rib cage. I needed a couple of days [off]; I never gave myself a couple of days. I did this past few days."

Bailey went 2 for 16 during the four days he rode last week.

Bailey is sitting on a potentially huge stakes weekend as he rides Wild Spirit in Friday's Personal Ensign, Empire Maker in Saturday's Travers, and Medaglia d'Oro in Sunday's Pacific Classic. Bailey also rides Zavata in the King's Bishop, Patrol in the Fourstardave, and Sea of Showers in the Ballston Spa.

Green Fee's career in jeopardy

Green Fee, a graded stakes winner on grass, sustained a suspensory injury that might end his racing career. The 7-year-old came out of an Aug. 4 workout over the Oklahoma turf with filling in his left foreleg, according to trainer Dan Peitz. Peitz was preparing Green Fee to run in an allowance race, which would have served as a stepping-stone to the Fourstardave.

Peitz, who trains Green Fee for owners Robert and Lawana Low, said the horse could be facing a long recovery period if a decision is made to return him to the races.

"We would have to give him some time off or see if there is any interest in him as a stallion," Peitz said. "He worked very well in that grass work, but the next day that leg was pretty thick."

Green Fee, a son of Green Dancer, finished seventh in his last start, the Poker Handicap at Belmont Park on July 5. In 32 career starts, Green Fee has a record of 7-5-5 and earnings of $494,545. His biggest career win came in last October's Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont.

Howard works Quick Tip and Rock Slide

Quick Tip and Rock Slide, both trained by Neil Howard, worked in company on Monday over the Oklahoma turf course for stakes on the Travers undercard.

Quick Tip and Rock Slide shared the bullet for five furlongs in 59.27 seconds over a firm course. Quick Tip will run in the $200,000 Ballston Spa Breeders' Cup and Rock Slide in the $200,000 Fourstardave.

Howard said he worked the stablemates together for Rock Slide's benefit.

"Rock Slide needs a little company and it helps him a little bit," Howard said.

Rock Slide, a full brother to Howard's stable star Mineshaft, is coming off a runner-up finish in the Schapiro Breeders' Cup Handicap at Laurel Park on Aug. 2. Quick Tip, in her last start, finished sixth in the Grade 1 Diana at Saratoga on July 26. Pat Day will ride both horses on Saturday.

Howard said that Mineshaft, who worked at Saratoga on Sunday, would work again over the weekend and would probably have his final work before the Sept. 6 Woodward, run at Belmont Park, the Monday or Tuesday before the race.

* Zavata worked a bullet five furlongs in 59.12 Monday with jockey Tony Farina aboard. Zavata, winner of the six-furlong Amsterdam Aug. 2 in his last start, will run in Saturday's Grade 1 King's Bishop, at seven furlongs.

* Trademark, who won the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch Handicap in his last start on July 25, worked Tuesday in preparation for the Grade 2 Fourstardave. Trademark went a half-mile in 52.11 seconds over the Oklahoma training track after the harrowing break.

War Zone, the likely starting highweight at 119 pounds, worked a half-mile in 51.24 over the main track.

* On Tuesday, Najran worked a half-mile in 47.13 seconds on the Oklahoma track in preparation for the Grade 1 Forego on Aug. 31. The move was the fastest of 21 works at the distance.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson