06/08/2005 11:00PM

Heat's on to get Funny Cide into Brooklyn

Funny Cide trains on grass at Belmont for the Brooklyn, which will be just his second start of this year.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The temperature is expected to approach 90 degrees. The race is run one around one turn. These are not a few of Funny Cide's favorite things.

Still, it is June 11 and Funny Cide, the champion 3-year-old of 2003, has run just once in 224 days. Trainer Barclay Tagg said that despite the forecasted heat Funny Cide will run in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont Park. While Funny Cide will most likely be favored against eight rivals, he is no cinch.

"If it was completely up to me," Tagg said. "I'd never run him on a hot day. He doesn't like heat, he doesn't like mud."

caught the mud in last month's Pimlico Special, when he finished fourth, 7 1/2 lengths behind Eddington. That was Funny Cide's first race since finishing 10th in the Breeders' Cup Classic. His last victory came in the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup last October over this track, where he is 4 for 7.

While Tagg agrees that Funny Cide likes Belmont Park, he is a bit concerned about the one-turn nature of this 1 1/8-mile race.

"It's probably hard on him because he's a rank, tough horse, but he's got to learn," Tagg said. "He couldn't be doing any better.''

Jose Santos will ride Funny Cide, the 119-pound highweight, from post 5. Funny Cide will likely try to stalk the speedy Rogue Agent, a New York-bred who is just 1 for his last 17.

could be the horse to beat in the Brooklyn. A 6-year-old son of Prospector's Music, Gygistar is coming off a strong win in the Grade 3 Westchester Handicap here on opening day. Last year, he won the Westchester and finished fourth in the Metropolitan Handicap, finishing slightly ahead of Funny Cide.

This year, trainer Mark Hennig decided to skip the Met Mile with Gygistar and point for this race. Though Gygistar is 0 for 3 at nine furlongs, those races were all around two turns. Gygistar is 4 for 6 at Belmont, all wins coming in graded stakes.

"Gygistar's record here at Belmont in one-turn routes is pretty good," Hennig said. "If he shows up, runs his race, he'll be tough. I think one turn is the key. I wouldn't be overly excited to meet Funny Cide two turns at a mile and an eighth."

is another horse who could upset Funny Cide. He is coming off a victory in the Alysheba Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 6. Oddly, Limehouse has never run at Belmont Park, but he did win the Grade 2 Hutcheson Stakes, a seven-furlong, one-turn race at Gulfstream.

Evening Attire, the 2002 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner, has traded five-length decisions with Funny Cide, beating him in last year's Saratoga Breeders' Cup and losing to him in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He has not run since December, and trainer Pat Kelly said he is only "50-50" to run.

Cuba comes off a terrific race when he was beaten a neck in the Eclipse Handicap at Woodbine on May 23. Trainer Tom Bush fears running back too soon and cutting back to one turn.

New York-breds Chowder's First and Spite the Devil complete the field.

The field

Brooklyn Handicap
Purse: $250,000; 1 1/8 miles; Grade 2

1Spite the DevilM. Smith11315-1
2Royal AssaultR. Bejarano11210-1
3GygistarJ. Castellano1173-1
4Chowder's FirstE. Prado11210-1
5Funny CideJ. Santos1195-2
6Rogue AgentE. Coa11220-1
7Evening AttireC. Velasquez1175-1
8CubaN. Arroyo Jr.11315-1
9LimehouseJ. Velazquez1154-1

* Odds by DRF
* Television: Saturday, 3-5:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPN