12/03/2003 12:00AM

In his winter haven

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MIAMI - Funny Cide settled into his winter headquarters at the Palm Meadows training center over the weekend to begin preparations for the upcoming Gulfstream Park meeting. Just when and where he will run this winter remains up in the air, though.

Funny Cide shipped to south Florida shortly after returning to New York from the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita. He spent three weeks at Gulfstream Park before moving up to Palm Meadows when the facility opened last Saturday.

"Right now we're not pushing him to get ready for anything," said Robin Smullen, Funny Cide's regular exercise rider and assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg. "He hasn't even galloped since arriving in Florida last month. He jogged and cantered in the chute over at Gulfstream, and he's followed the same routine since we moved over here. I don't think he's lost any fitness. He's done enough that I could breeze him tomorrow if we wanted. But he doesn't have any wind in him at the moment, not having breezed or galloped in a while."

Funny Cide could possibly launch his 2004 campaign as early as Jan. 3, opening day at Gulfstream, in the Grade 3 Hal's Hope Handicap, although Smullen believes the chance of making the race is slim.

"I wouldn't rule the Hal's Hope out completely, but I don't see us going in there," said Smullen. "At the moment the Donn Handicap would be our goal, but we're not going to push for that race either. The owners have been real good about letting us take our time with him and doing what's best for the horse."

Funny Cide has become the poster child for Palm Meadows - Magna Entertainment Inc.'s state-of-the-art training center in Boynton Beach, Fla., 47 miles north of Gulfstream Park - since he won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness after being stabled at the new facility last winter.

"This place is great. It's the only place to train," said Smullen. "We live down by Gulfstream, but the track is so good here it's worth the 45-minute drive every day."

Bond also a fan of the facility

Trainer H. James Bond was also singing the praises of Palm Meadows while watching a set of his horses train on Wednesday morning.

"This is really a first-class operation," said Bond. "The horses think they are in heaven going over this track, and they do so much better physically up here. It reminds me a little of Hialeah in its day. It's the perfect place to train. It's a bigger racetrack, the turf course is beautiful, and it just gives you a lot more options than being at Gulfstream or Payson Park."

Bond, a mainstay at Payson for many years, split his stable between Palm Meadows and Payson last winter but has his whole barn at Palm Meadows this winter.

"I won with nine of the first 12 horses I started out of here at Gulfstream last season, and I'm really excited about being here this winter," said Bond.

Among the horses Bond will be getting in later this week is Bossanova, recent winner of Aqueduct's Fall Highweight.

"I'll freshen him up and ultimately look towards the Carter Handicap, although we'll start with him somewhere at Gulfstream this winter," said Bond.

McLaughlin barn gearing up

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is spending his first winter at Palm Meadows and his stable has already been busy, with eight of his horses having worked since the track opened. Among the group is Millennium Dragon, who figures to be among the favorites in Saturday's $100,000 Tropical Turf Handicap at Calder.

Millennium Dragon finished third, beaten less than a length after setting the pace, in the Grade 2 Knickerbocker Handicap at Aqueduct on Nov. 1.

"The Knickerbocker really wasn't the perfect pace scenario for him," said Neal McLaughlin who is currently overseeing his brother Kiaran's Palm Meadows operation. "He's really done well since we've gotten down here, and hopefully the pace situation will be more to his liking on Saturday."

Volga is likely for the Grade 2 La Prevoyante Handicap for McLaughlin, and Nowrass is a possibility for the Grade 2 W.L. McKnight Handicap.

Better Talk Now to pass Tropical Turf

Better Talk Now, who won the Knickerbocker, is among the nominees to the Tropical Turf but will not start, according to David Rock, assistant to trainer Graham Motion.

Rock did confirm that New Economy will run Saturday at Calder in the $100,000 My Charmer Handicap. New Economy finished fifth, beaten 1 1/4 lengths, in the 2002 My Charmer before returning three weeks later to upset the La Prevoyante. She has been lightly raced this season, with her best effort a third-place finish in the Grade 2 WinStar Galaxy.

Stolen Time sold, sent to Mott

Stolen Time, one of the more promising 2-year-olds stabled at Calder this year, has been sold privately and was transferred to trainer Bill Mott's barn at Payson Park on Tuesday.

Trained by Bill White for owner-breeders Dr.'s K.K. and Vilasini Jayaraman, Stolen Time has won 2 of 4 starts, including the Foolish Pleasure Stakes. White had been pointing the colt for Saturday's $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes at the time the deal was completed.

"The whole situation happened quite quickly and unexpectedly," said White. "I had planned to ship him to Louisiana on Monday. Naturally it's disappointing to lose such a promising young horse. In my opinion he was the best 2-year-old on the grounds. But I certainly understand the realities and the business aspect of this game, and I respect the owners' decision to sell the horse."

Stolen Time is nominated for the $100,000 What a Pleasure Stakes here on Dec. 13.