10/12/2003 11:00PM

Krone to ride Funny Cide in Breeders' Cup Classic


ELMONT, N.Y. - It has already been a fairytale year for Funny Cide, who became the first New York-bred to win the Kentucky Derby. Now the plot thickens, Funny Cide's connections have announced that the gelding will run in the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 25 - and Julie Krone, the winningest female jockey in history, will ride.

The decision by trainer Barclay Tagg to use Krone came after Phil Johnson, the trainer of Volponi, would not let jockey Jose Santos out of his call on Volponi for the Classic. Santos rode Volponi to victory in last year's BC Classic and, despite losing the mount on that horse in August, was given the call on Volponi again on Oct. 4.

On Sunday, Johnson hinted he would let Santos out of the call, but by Monday morning he had changed his mind and conveyed that to Santos and his agent, Mike Sellitto.

"I said, 'I'm holding you to the call,' " Johnson said. "That was all I said. They said okay."

Santos said he is happy to be aboard for Volponi, and said it would have been a tough call had he had to make a choice. Santos rode Funny Cide to victory in the Preakness.

"Volponi has as good a shot as anybody in the race," Santos said. "It was a tough decision. P.G. made it easy."

Santos said that had he known weeks ago that Funny Cide was going to run in the Classic, "I definitely would have ridden Funny Cide. It's a $4 million race. I cannot be switching back and forth two weeks before the race."

The union of Krone and Funny Cide combines two of racing's feel-good stories of the year. In addition to Funny Cide's rags-to-riches saga, Krone has vaulted again to the top of her profession after returning from a 3 1/2-year retirement. A Hall of Fame rider, she was the second-leading rider at Del Mar, won the $1 million Pacific Classic aboard Candy Ride, and is again challenging for top honors at the Oak Tree meeting at Santa Anita.

"I think she'd suit the horse well," Tagg said Monday. "She's won a lot of big races for me over the years, and she's winning a lot of races out there. I think the horse would relax for her. I've never seen a horse that wouldn't relax for her."

In 1994, Krone rode Tagg's Royal Mountain Inn to victory in the Grade 1 Man o' War Stakes. On Aug. 20, 1993, when Krone rode five winners at Saratoga, two of them for Tagg.

"He's put me on a lot of winners," said Krone.

Funny Cide was being pointed to this Saturday's Empire Classic for New York-breds at Belmont Park. But Tagg does not feel a one-turn 1 1/8-mile race is ideal for Funny Cide coming off a long layoff, because he could be too rank with a straight five-furlong run before the far turn. Funny Cide hasn't raced since finishing third in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 3.

"I like having the extra week," Tagg said. "He's doing really, really good. You can get beat in any race. I did not want to get beat in the Empire Classic because then he'd have no shot to be 3-year-old champion. I'm not saying the Breeders' Cup is going to be an easy race, it's going to be tougher than hell."

On Sunday, Funny Cide worked a mile in 1:38.62 over Belmont's training track. He is expected to work seven furlongs Saturday at Belmont and ship to California on Oct. 22.

In other Classic developments:

* Evening Attire, who finished fourth in last year's Classic, worked a bullet five furlongs in 59.35 seconds over Belmont Park's training track Monday morning. John Velazquez will ride him in the Classic.

* Tenpins, runner-up to Perfect Drift in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, will skip the Classic, as will Bowman's Band, the Meadowlands Cup winner.

* Here are the horses, with riders, who were expected to be pre-entered for the Classic on Tuesday: Congaree (Pat Valenzuela), Dynever (Corey Nakatani), Evening Attire (Velazquez), Fleetstreet Dancer (Tyler Baze), Funny Cide (Krone), Hold That Tiger (Edgar Prado), Medaglia d'Oro (Jerry Bailey), Perfect Drift (Gary Stevens), Pleasantly Perfect (Alex Solis), Ten Most Wanted (Pat Day), Volponi (Santos).

Falbrav and Toccet were expected to be pre-entered in both the Classic and $2 million Turf.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman