12/07/2005 12:00AM

Stewart starts his Florida campaign

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MIAMI - Dallas Stewart has not been stabled regularly in south Florida since 1997, but he is back this year and not waiting for the 2006 Gulfstream Park meet to begin to make his presence felt locally.

Stewart plans to send out a pair of key contenders on next Saturday's Grand Slam II program at Calder: Silverfoot in the $250,000 W.L. McKnight Handicap and Storm Surge in the seven-furlong Kenny Noe Jr. Handicap.

Silverfoot is coming off a sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Turf. Storm Surge, a Grade 3 stakes winner earlier this year, has not started since finishing second under allowance conditions at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6.

"Both horses are doing well," Stewart said at Gulfstream on Wednesday. "I thought Silverfoot ran a great race in the Breeders' Cup. He got beat only about nine lengths by the best turf horses in the world. Storm Surge has had some up-and-down races and a little bad racing luck after starting the year winning a graded stakes. Six furlongs to a mile seems to be his game now, and I'm hoping he can finish off the year on a good note and really step up as a 4-year-old."

Stewart sent four horses to south Florida late last winter, including turf specialist Cape Hope, who won a pair of stakes during the 2005 Gulfstream Park meet. He is among the 16 horses Stewart has in Florida.

"I've always wanted to come back here on a regular basis, but it's been a matter of having the right stock because the racing is always so tough during the winter at Gulfstream," said Stewart. "Hopefully we've got the right stock this year."

Stewart also reported that Flanders Fields, who finished a disappointing fifth here last Saturday as the favorite in the $100,000 What a Pleasure Stakes, bucked shins during the race and would be sidelined indefinitely.

Silverfoot is one of 28 turf specialists nominated to the 1 1/2-mile McKnight. Dreadnaught, who outfinished Demeteor by a neck to win the 2005 McKnight, is expected back to defend his title. Grade 1 winner Meteor Storm is also listed among the prospective starters.

Saturday's Grade 2 La Prevoyante also drew a strong group of nominees topped by trainer H. Graham Motion's pair of Film Maker and Olaya. Film Maker has finished third and second in the last two editions of the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, while Olaya won the Grade 2 Long Island Handicap in her U.S. debut.

Funny Cide gets ready for Gulfstream

Funny Cide, who has not started since his sixth-place finish in the Suburban Handicap on July 2, is back training on a regular basis and could return to action as early as the opening week of the Gulfstream Park meet, trainer Barclay Tagg reported Wednesday.

"He worked three furlongs before leaving Belmont and a half-mile here on Monday morning," said Tagg. "He's doing great, and God willing I'll be able to work him now every six days. There's a six-furlong race on Jan. 7, the Mr. Prospector, which would set him up nicely for the Donn Handicap."

The Grade 1 Donn Handicap will be run on Feb. 4.

Funny Cide, who made only three starts last season, was sent to the sidelines because of a back injury that Tagg said he first sustained in the Brooklyn Handicap and then further aggravated in the Suburban.

"He just wasn't right, so we gave him the time off," Tagg said. "I'm not going to force the issue with him right now. If we can make the Donn, great. If not, there are plenty of other races later in the year."

Grandstand work disrupts training

Tagg did not have an official time for Funny Cide's local work because there have been no clockers at Gulfstream Park since the barn area reopened five weeks ago. There is also no five-furlong or three-furlong pole on the main track from which to time works because of damage sustained during Hurricane Wilma. Gulfstream's president, Scott Savin, said the clockers will begin work this weekend.

Training hours have been altered because of the ongoing construction of the new grandstand, with the track open until only 8:30 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends. Trainers and their horses have also had to get used to construction workers being on the job in the grandstand during training hours.

"I had one rider fall off when his mount wheeled and ran off after a steel plate dropped in the grandstand yesterday," said Tagg. "Although, by and large the horses and riders seem to get used to the situation quickly. The biggest problem is having to push to get all my horses out by 8:30. I really don't like to rush them like that."