08/12/2006 12:00AM

Shermanesque joins family act

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Songster, training at Saratoga on Friday, has a date with Henny Hughes in the King's Bishop on Aug. 26.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Nine years ago, Countess Diana won both the Schuylerville and Spinaway stakes at Saratoga en route to being named champion 2-year-old filly.

On Thursday, her brother Shermanesque will try to join her as a juvenile stakes winner at Saratoga when he runs in the Grade 2, $200,000 Saratoga Special Breeders' Cup. Shermanesque, a son of Fusaichi Pegasus, won his career debut before finishing second behind Circular Quay in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill Downs on July 8.

Shermanesque was being prepared for a start in the Grade 3 Sanford Stakes here on July 27, but was sidetracked by a foot bruise, according to trainer Anthony Reinstedler.

"After his race at Churchill he got a little bit of a bruised heel," Reinstedler said. "He's done great since he's been here. I'm really pleased with him. Right now we're on schedule. I'm happy with where we're at going into the race."

Shermanesque, owned by the Willmott Stables, has breezed twice at Saratoga, including a half-mile in 49.16 seconds Aug. 9.

Though he's a son of Fusaichi Pegasus, who was a quirky horse mentally, Shermanesque has acted like nothing but a professional, Reinstedler said.

"The Fusaichi Pegasuses get a little bit of a bad rap as being bad actors," Reinstedler said. "This horse has a great mind. He's very professional, very classy, and has not done a thing wrong from the beginning. He's really made our job really easy."

A field of five is expected for the Special, including Actin Good, Chace City, Fast n Ready, and King of the Roxy.

Half-interest in 'Express' sold

Veteran trainer Bernie Flint has called Unbridled Express perhaps the best horse he has ever trained. Apparently, there are some others who have become enamored with the 2-year-old colt as well.

Richard Santulli's Colts Neck Stable, noted chef Bobby Flay, and bloodstock agent Mike Ryan have purchased a half-interest in Unbridled Express. The purchase price is believed to be $1.8 million, according to multiple sources who preferred not to be identified.

Barry Weisbord, a longtime business partner of Santulli's, helped broker the deal between his group and Tom Conway, an attorney in Louisville, Ky., who owns Unbridled Express with partners that include Flint.

"He's an extremely good-looking son of Unbridled's Song that's precocious and that looks like he has the pedigree to run on," Weisbord said Saturday at Saratoga. "It seemed like an excellent opportunity. Bernie and his partners bred the horse and raised him, and we're very excited about it."

Unbridled Express was expected to run in the Saratoga Special. But Unbridled Express did not scope well following a five-furlong workout in 50 seconds Saturday at Churchill Downs and will not make the trip, according to Saratoga stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes.

Funny Cide likely for Woodward

Barring any setbacks, Funny Cide will make his second appearance at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes on Sept. 2, owner Jack Knowlton said Saturday.

Funny Cide, who hasn't run since winning the Dominion Day Stakes at Woodbine on July 1, worked five furlongs in 1:00.01 on Saturday morning under exercise rider Simon Harris. It was the fastest of 20 works at the distance, and a second faster than the next fastest move. It was Funny Cide's most strenuous exercise since the Dominion Day, from which Funny Cide emerged with a low red blood cell count.

"This is as good a work as he's had up here," said Robin Smullen, assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg. "We didn't breeze him for 30 days after his start up there. He got a little heavy on us. We breezed him a half-mile, then five-eighths, and he got a little tired on us. He didn't get tired on us today. He galloped out great. I didn't pick him up till the 4 1/2 [furlong] pole."

Smullen and Knowlton both said the $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup on Sept. 30 is the major goal for the fall for Funny Cide, and that the Woodward would be used to get him to that race.

"It wasn't in our original plan," Knowlton said of the Woodward. "We've been looking for longer races for him. We were going to run in the Washington Park Handicap [at Arlington], but with all the concerns with that track out there and all the heat and the fact the race in Toronto took a little bit out of him, we didn't want to go."

Knowlton said the Woodward "is a nice race in our back yard. We want to see him run here. A lot of people want to see him run here. He's doing real well - why not? I doubt he'll embarrass himself or us."

In Funny Cide's only other start here, he finished second to Evening Attire in the 2004 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Abreu and his horse hurting

Gulch Approval tore a hind suspensory ligament during the running of a turf allowance race here Thursday and will be retired. But the story does not end there.

In his quest to get over to Gulch Approval, trainer Reynaldo Abreu suffered a torn Achilles tendon in his right ankle, which will be operated on Monday. Abreu was hobbling around on crutches while overseeing his horses training Saturday.

"I was running to see what was going on, and when I jumped out of the track I heard something crack," Abreu said. "But my adrenaline was too high, so I didn't pay attention to it. I fell down twice before I realized I was hurt, too."

Gulch Approval, owned by Marylou Whitney, retires with a record of 8-6-8 from 40 starts and earnings of $593,004. He won the Grade 3 Oceanport Handicap for Nick Zito in 2004. Earlier this year at Gulfstream, he won the Grade 3 Appleton Handicap, giving Abreu his first stakes win.

Sprinters have early staredown

They could have run the Grade 1 King's Bishop on Saturday morning around 8:45.

Henny Hughes and Songster, two of the principal players for the King's Bishop on Aug. 26, were on the track at the same time Saturday, getting ready to work. Simon Harris, the exercise rider on Songster, saw Kiaran McLaughlin, the trainer of Henny Hughes, and shouted out, "Let's get it on, now!"

McLaughlin replied, "You don't have enough sets of goggles on!"

Henny Hughes and Songster had no trouble avoiding each other during their workouts. Henny Hughes went five furlongs in 1:01.04, and Songster went four furlongs in 48.34 seconds.

"He's doing fabulous," McLaughlin said of Henny Hughes, who will likely come back with a half-mile breeze next weekend.

Tom Albertrani, the trainer of Songster, has moved on since Songster was beaten by Court Folly as the 1-9 favorite in the Amsterdam Stakes, a race in which some felt jockey Edgar Prado moved too soon.

"I'm not going to blame Edgar," Albertrani said. "It's just the way the race set up. It didn't work out in our favor. He came out of the race better than he normally does. We hope we have a different pace scenario in the King's Bishop. Henny Hughes is definitely going to be the horse to beat in there."

Moubarak back from harrowing trip

Mohammed Moubarak, the former trainer who most recently was the racing manager for Buckram Oak Farm, was happy to be at Saratoga this week, visiting friends after being trapped in his native Lebanon three weeks ago, when fighting broke out between Israel and Hezbollah.

Moubarak said he was visiting friends and family, then spent a harrowing time trying to leave Lebanon and make his way home.

"When the war started, we were staying just two miles from the airport in Beirut, and that's where the first bombing was," Moubarak said. "We had 14 kids with us and they were screaming, but we couldn't be scared. We didn't want to frighten them. We tried to make jokes.

"First we went to Syria. While we were driving, the fighter planes were flying overhead. It was like a movie. We left the house with just the clothes we were wearing. We got to a crossing to Syria, but everybody was pushing their way to the front of the line. We ended up spending seven days in Syria, then went to Romania for a week before finally going home."

- additional reporting by Jay Privman