08/26/2003 11:00PM

Funny Mood faces new hurdles


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - It's funny how things work out. Some horses languish in their barn for weeks and weeks, waiting for a suitable race to make it onto a program. Others come out to run every 17 to 21 days, like clockwork.

In the latter category fits Funny Mood, who came into this meet a middling mid-level claimer, but is on a win streak now and raking in the earnings. Best of all, races keep filling for her. Funny Mood beat five horses winning a $40,000 claimer here July 2. A month later, Funny Mood beat four horses in a $62,500 claimer that also was open to third-level allowance horses.

Friday, yet another race for Funny Mood has made it onto the program, another $62,500 optional claimer, again with just five horses. But there are two significant changes this time. First, Funny Mood's two recent wins came in one-turn miles, and this race is at nine furlongs around two turns. The second is Mayo on the Side, who comes off a 12 3/4-length blowout at Ellis Park, and might be the equal of Funny Mood.

Also entered is Princess Paleface, who came within three-quarters of a length of Funny Mood when they met a month ago.

An Argentine mare owned by W. Rowland Hackett and Jessie Walker, and trained by Steve Asmussen, Funny Mood also has been fortunate at post-position draws. A natural stalker, she is well-suited to outside posts, and has the five-hole on Thursday. And while a mile has proven to be Funny Mood's ideal trip, she was a stayer during her Argentine career, and may not have distance limitations at all.

Besides, the question of distance also applies to Mayo on the Side, whose recent win came at a mile, and who has been a sprinter most of her career. She showed speed at Ellis Park's one-and-a-half-turn mile trip last out, and is likely to wind up on the lead again, breaking from the rail under Eddie Razo. Princess Paleface and Funny Mood should stalk, with Barney's Mistress, third in an overnight handicap last out, and White O Morn, who appears overmatched, bringing up the rear of the short field.

Wiggins to skip Pennsylvania Derby

Wiggins, the best 3-year-old Illinois-bred, will pass Monday's Pennsylvania Derby and wait for the $75,000 Prairie Meadows Derby on Sept. 13.

Tony Granitz, Wiggins's trainer, had tentatively been pointing Wiggins to the Pennsylvania Derby after Wiggins easily won the Round Table Stakes here. That was Wiggins's first victory over open stakes horses and first in a two-turn race. Wiggins clearly was on an upward trajectory, and Granitz was waiting to see which top horses would go to the Pennsylvania, especially fearing the presence of Peace Rules. In the end, he got the sort of field for which he had hoped, but Granitz was forced to pull Wiggins from consideration after the colt came out of a Sunday workout with mucous in his respiratory system.

"He worked great, six furlongs in 1:14, but we scoped him and he had mucous," Granitz said. "If the race was at home, it might be different, but we'd have to ship out of town in this heat."

Wiggins already has returned to training, and Granitz said he "looked great" during a routine gallop on Wednesday.

St. Julien to return to Arlington

Jockey Marlon St. Julien is expected to resume riding at Arlington this summer, according to his agent.

St. Julien hasn't ridden here since Aug. 17, but his agent, Penny Ffitch-Heyes, said he is expected to return soon. St. Julien currently is sixth in the jockey standings.

St. Julien has prematurely pulled up his tack at other tracks, but Ffitch-Heyes said St. Julien assured her he's coming back to Chicago.

"He's had some personal family issues he's had to address, and he'll be back soon," she said.

Two who'll take on Take Charge Lady

Only a handful of opponents will line up to challenge Take Charge Lady here Monday in the Grade 3 Arlington Matron Handicap. The field is likely to include Lakenheath, who won the Matron last season, and a fresh challenger, To the Queen. Based with trainer Bill Mott's Kentucky string, To the Queen shipped to Arlington for an overnight handicap on Aug. 10 and won by eight lengths. The race was only her second of the season, and first around two turns, and she is eligible for further improvement Monday.