04/08/2007 11:00PM

McGaughey resists Derby fever

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - If Sightseeing was in virtually any other barn, his next start would be in the Kentucky Derby on May 5. After all, five horses that finished second in the Wood Memorial have come back to win the Run for the Roses, the last being Funny Cide in 2003.

But even after watching Sightseeing come within a half-length of possible Kentucky Derby favorite Nobiz Like Shobiz in Saturday's Wood Memorial, trainer Shug McGaughey said he believes his horse will be better served by waiting to face the division's best again.

"I just don't think he's ready for it,'' McGaughey said Monday morning, echoing comments he made both before and after the Wood. "He's going to be a big price, and if I was wrong [to run] I'm going to be really out of it. I'm going to piddle around and see what happens and have the Jim Dandy and that kind of a program in mind for him.''

Sightseeing, a son of Pulpit, is still eligible for his first-level allowance condition.

Immediately after the Wood, McGaughey mentioned the Preakness as a possibility for Sightseeing's next start. McGaughey on Monday seemed to downgrade that possibility unless "it looks like the Derby wasn't a good race and [the Preakness] was one of those six-horse or seven-horse fields.''

While pleased with the colt's performance, McGaughey thought Sightseeing got to wandering a bit in the stretch before leveling off at the eighth pole and making a late run at Nobiz Like Shobiz.

Barclay Tagg, the trainer of Nobiz Like Shobiz, said he feared Sightseeing going into the Wood because of his pedigree. Tagg said he was happy to hear that Sightseeing would skip the Derby "because that horse would be tough in the Derby,'' Tagg said.

Meanwhile, Tagg said Nobiz Like Shobiz came out of the Wood in good order and would likely have three workouts at Belmont Park prior to shipping to Louisville two or three days before the Derby.

In addition to wearing blinkers for the first time and having cotton in his ears, Nobiz Like Shobiz also was fitted with a new bit. Tagg said he used a bit that "has a straight bar with a bent prong that just puts a little pressure on him. He's got a very light mouth.''

Tagg had experimented with a Houghton bit and a button bit, the latter being the one Nobiz Like Shobiz wore in the Fountain of Youth, when he lugged in a couple of times.

Funny Cide points to Kings Point

Funny Cide, who finished seventh in an allowance race last Friday at Keeneland, will be pointed to the Kings Point Handicap here on Aprilo29, Tagg said. Funny Cide won the Kings Point, a 1 1/8-mile dirt race restricted to New York-breds, last year.

Funny Cide was making his 7-year-old debut last week at Keeneland, where he was beaten 12 lengths by Rathor going 1 1/16 miles over the Polytrack. Funny Cide won the Grade 3 Dominion Day Handicap over Woodbine's Polytrack last summer.

"I don't know if he didn't just like the Polytrack or if he just doesn't want to run,'' Tagg said Monday "I'm going to bring him back here and try that little New York-bred stakes. It won't be easy. Physically, he's doing great, but mentally I don't know.''

Boca Grande drills for Comely

Not every horse excels in south Florida during the winter. McGaughey is hopeful Boca Grande turns out to be one of those that prefers New York.

After an unproductive winter in south Florida, Boca Grande, last year's Demoiselle winner, has shown some signs of life since returning to New York. A strong workout over Belmont Park's main track on Sunday earned Boca Grande a start in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Comely Stakes at Aqueduct.

Boca Grande worked four furlongs in 48.70 seconds over Belmont's main track, a move that pleased McGaughey.

"Since she's been here she's been like a different horse, and her work yesterday was really a good work,'' McGaughey said Monday. "I didn't know what my plans were going to be. If she didn't work exceptionally well I wasn't going to run her at all, and I thought she worked exceptionally well.''

Boca Grande was a convincing winner of last November's Grade 2 Demoiselle over Aqueduct's main track. In her only start of the winter, Boca Grande finished sixth of seven in the Grade 2 Forward Gal at Gulfstream.

"She ran terrible - I've got no idea why,'' McGaughey said. "She spread a shoe going to the paddock, so we had to put a new shoe on her . . . just the whole thing was a disaster. I wasn't sure she could win going seven-eighths, but I thought she could lay back there and make a run and hit the board.''

A decent field is shaping up for the Comely, including undefeated mid-Atlantic-based runners Control System and Winning Point as well as Bare Dancer, Fee Fi Fo Fum, Officer in Pursuit, and Perfect Forest.

Plans for Corinthian uncertain

Corinthian, who was severely compromised by a poor start in the Excelsior Breeders' Cup, came out of the race in good order, but his connections have no plans for his next start.

Corinthian leaped in the air when the starting gate opened and spotted the field several lengths. He attempted to get back into the race down the backside, but got discouraged when he wasn't making up any significant ground. He ended up fifth, beaten 8o1/4 lengths by Magna Graduate.

Trainer Jimmy Jerkens noted that down the backside the field "picked it up pretty good. Horses see that, too. When they're running hard and they're not gaining, they just throw in the towel.''

With the Pimlico Special canceled this year, there is a dearth of handicap stakes for the next month.

"It's a long year,'' Jerkens said. "It doesn't matter if he doesn't run for a couple of months."

Magna Graduate won the Excelsior by 3 3/4 lengths and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 110, equaling his career best. He is now 2 for 2 since trainer Todd Pletcher removed the blinkers from the 5-year-old's equipment. Magna Graduate had run 15 consecutive races with blinkers before Pletcher took them off prior to last month's Razorback at Oaklawn.

He could be possible for the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont on May 28, where he would most likely face Carter winner Silver Wagon, who finished second to Ghostzapper in the 2005 Met Mile. Silver Wagon earned a 111 Beyer Speed Figure winning the Carter.

* Eibar Coa, the leading rider during the inner-track season, on Monday began a 10-day suspension for a careless riding incident that occurred in the second race at Aqueduct on March 25. Coa had initially appealed the suspension. He will be eligible to return on April 19.

* Tagg has taken over the training of Johannesburg Star, the 3-year-old who earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure winning a maiden race over the inner track in December. Since then, Johannesburg Star finished second in the Count Fleet and last in both the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby. The horse had been trained by Joe Parker in New York and Collin Maragh in south Florida.