04/13/2003 11:00PM

Just two locals press on to Derby

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Barring any last-minute changes of heart, there will only be two horses with New York-based connections running in next month's Kentucky Derby.

Funny Cide, runner-up to Empire Maker in Saturday's Wood Memorial, and Fund of Funds, runner-up to Ten Most Wanted in the April 5 Illinois Derby, will both have history against them when they make a run for the roses on May 3 at Churchill Downs.

Funny Cide, who will be trainer Barclay Tagg's first Derby starter, will try to become the first New York-bred to win the Derby. He will also try to become the first gelding since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929 to wear the roses. Since then, geldings are 0 for 74 in the Derby. Best Pal (1991), Prairie Bayou (1993), and Cavonnier (1996) all finished second.

Funny Cide, beaten just a half-length by Empire Maker, ran too good a race not to try the Derby, Tagg said Saturday. On Monday, Robin Smullen, Tagg's assistant, said Funny Cide came out of the race so well that he was scheduled to return to the track on Tuesday morning for a light jog. Normally, Funny Cide would get three days off after a race.

"Barclay didn't want to keep him in his stall," Smullen said. "He's licked his tub clean since the race. Everything we've fed him he's eaten, and he can be a finicky eater."

Meanwhile, Fund of Funds, who will be trainer Rick Violette's first Derby runner, will be trying to buck 121 years of Derby history. No horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Kentucky Derby without having made a start as a 2-year-old. Fund of Funds, a son of Saint Ballado, did not debut until January.

After winning his maiden by 12 1/4 lengths over the inner track in his third start on Feb. 20, Fund of Funds was beaten one length while running out of condition in a second-level allowance race. He finished second in the Illinois Derby, four lengths behind Ten Most Wanted.

While Violette said he is leaving his options open, he added that he will train the horse with the intention of running in the Derby. Violette believes his horse may have been compromised this winter by an inconsistent training schedule caused by the weather. He is hoping not to have that problem now that spring has arrived.

"Our horse needs to be doing lights-out in order to go," Violette said. "He needs to improve off the Illinois race, and I think he can."

Violette said Shaun Bridgmohan would keep the mount on Fund of Funds in the Derby.

Both Funny Cide and Fund of Funds would do most of their major training in New York before heading to Louisville four or five days before the race.

Lisa Lewis, trainer of the Wood third-place finisher, Kissin Saint, said her horse would be pointed to the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 24 as a possible prep for the Belmont Stakes on June 7. Lewis said the only way she would change her mind and run Kissin Saint in the Derby is if something were to happen to Empire Maker.

Ernie Paragallo, the owner of the Wood Memorial's fourth-place finisher, New York Hero, informed the New York Racing Association publicity department on Sunday that he would most likely skip the Derby and point his horse to the Preakness.

Volponi heads busy work tab

With a fast track to train over for the first time in a week, there were 270 horses credited with timed workouts Monday morning at Belmont Park.

No one was more impressive than the Breeders' Cup Classic winner Volponi, who drilled five furlongs in 57.95 seconds over the main track, the fastest by 1.07 seconds of 52 moves at the distance. Jockey Jose Santos was aboard for the move. Clockers caught Volponi galloping out six furlongs in 1:10.23.

"He came back well, and the track is fast," said P.G. Johnson, Volponi's trainer. "If that was a West Coast track, or a hard track, you'd say 'Boy, I hope I didn't do any damage.' But he drank two buckets of water, cooled out great. I can't see any harm. I'm not unhappy."

Johnson said he is still hoping for some sort of prep race early in the Belmont meet as a way to get Volponi to the Brooklyn Handicap on June 14. Johnson said his summer objectives include the Brooklyn, the Suburban on July 5, and the Whitney on Aug. 2 at Saratoga.

Other notables on Monday's work tab were Grade 1 winners Summer Colony (six furlongs in 1:14.54), Shine Again (five furlongs in 1:01.74), and Smok'n Frolic and Raging Fever (both given four furlongs in 47.65 seconds). Smok'n Frolic and Raging Fever head what is expected to be a short field in Saturday's $150,000 Bed o' Roses Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Saarland is Westchester-bound

If Volponi keeps his trainer's schedule, then one of his rivals this summer figures to be Saarland, who returned Friday from a six-month layoff and won a one-mile allowance race at Aqueduct. Trainer Shug McGaughey said Saarland would make his next start in the $100,000 Westchester Handicap, May 7 at Belmont.

McGaughey said he felt the Grade 3 Westchester, a one-turn mile race, was a better race to use than the Pimlico Special on May 16 as a prep for the Brooklyn, a one-turn 1 1/8-mile race.

Meanwhile, McGaughey's champion 2-year-old filly, Storm Flag Flying, worked five furlongs in 1:01.62 Sunday morning, her final breeze for Friday's $100,000 Comely Stakes.

Storm Flag Flying figures to be part of a short field in the Comely, run at one mile over Aqueduct's main track. As of Monday, only Bonay and Cyber Secret were confirmed as runners. Possibles include Glorious Miss, House Party, Little Bonnet, and either Xtra Heart or Virgin Voyage.

Bond duo entered for 2003 debuts

Princess Dixie and Along Came Mary, a couple of New York-bred stakes-winning fillies, are both entered Wednesday in a $56,000 classified allowance race at one mile that serves as Aqueduct's feature. It would be the seasonal debut for both fillies.

Princess Dixie and Along Came Mary were the one-two finishers in last year's Montauk Handicap, for statebreds run at nine furlongs. Both fillies have had a bevy of stamina-building workouts at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida for trainer James Bond, who wins at a 25-percent clip off layoffs of two to six months.

Green Jeans, sent out by Billy Turner, has won three of four starts since returning from an extended layoff.

- Trainer Michael Brice began serving a 15-day suspension on Saturday as the result of one of his horses testing positive for clenbuterol, a medication not permitted for raceday use. Mark's Mane Man, the third-place finisher in the fourth race on Jan. 25, was the horse who tested positive. Brice was suspended 30 days but had the penalty cut in half when he declined to appeal. He was also fined $2,000.

- Jockeys Luis Castillo and Javier Castellano, who will serve 10-day suspensions, have withdrawn their appeals for careless riding infractions. Castillo will return on April 23, Castellano returns a day later.