08/04/2003 11:00PM

Tagg gets an Alabama contender


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Next week, Barclay Tagg can ruin Bobby Frankel's triple crown bid.

Tagg has taken over the training of the Delaware Oaks winner, Island Fashion, and is pointing her to the Grade 1, $750,000 Alabama Stakes on Aug. 16. In that race, Spoken Fur, trained by Frankel, will be trying to sweep the New York filly triple crown series and the $2 million bonus that goes with it.

When the Frankel-trained Empire Maker won the Belmont Stakes, he prevented Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide from winning the Triple Crown and the $5 million bonus that went with that.

"I wouldn't mind winning the Alabama," Tagg said, electing not to touch the revenge angle.

Tagg received Island Fashion from owner Jeffrey Nielsen a couple of days after the July 19 Delaware Oaks. Nick Canani, who trained Island Fashion for the Delaware Oaks, left to become a private trainer for Michael Gill, the nation's leading owner. Tagg also received Shapes and Shadows, a 3-year-old filly also owned by Nielsen who was eased in the Coaching Club American Oaks, also July 19. She is being pointed to the Lake Placid Handicap here on turf on Aug. 17.

Tagg said Tony Everard, from whom Tagg purchased Funny Cide, also does business with Nielsen and suggested Tagg to him.

Thus far, Tagg has been impressed with what he has seen from Island Fashion, a daughter of Petionville who won her maiden in the WinStar Oaks at Sunland Park in March. She finished seventh in the Kentucky Oaks before winning the Delaware Oaks by 6 1/2 lengths, going gate to wire. In that race, she defeated the Grade 1 winner Awesome Humor.

"She's a pretty talented filly," Tagg said. "She ran a mile and a sixteenth down there - she broke in front and galloped around there and was challenged for five furlongs and blew them away."

Tagg said he didn't think 1 1/4 miles would be a problem for Island Fashion. "She's very relaxed. It looks like she'll sit anywhere you put her," he said. "She's just a lovely horse. Hopefully, she's that good. If I owned her, I'd run in the same spot."

On Monday, Island Fashion breezed five furlongs in 1:02.06 over Saratoga's main track. Tagg said John Velazquez would ride her in the Alabama.

Funny Cide: Fever down, eye open

Tagg said on Tuesday that Funny Cide's fever was down and the one eye that was closed on Monday had opened. Funny Cide's status for the Aug. 23 Travers remains uncertain.

Funny Cide had a 102 temperature on Monday, but it was down to 100.2 on Tuesday after being treated with antibiotics and Butazolidin. Tagg said Funny Cide ate his dinner Monday night and his breakfast Tuesday morning.

"It's what I call high normal," Tagg said of the 100.2 temperature, which was taken at 5 a.m. Tuesday. "I like them below 100 in the morning and between 100 and 101 in the afternoon. I don't like to see him 100.2 on medication, because that could be higher if he was off medication. We'll keep him on medication for a few days. You worry to death about them getting pneumonia."

On Monday, Tagg said that Funny Cide had one eye closed because of dirt kicked in his face during the running of the Haskell, in which Funny Cide finished a well-beaten third. Tagg said on Tuesday that the eye problem was more superficial than serious.

"You worry about them getting ulcers," Tagg said. "We still have to medicate it five times a day, but it looks like it will be all right.''

Prado back on Sky Mesa for Travers

Edgar Prado, who obviously chose right when he elected to ride Peace Rules over Sky Mesa in the Haskell, will be back aboard Sky Mesa in the Travers, trainer John Ward said Tuesday.

"That's been part of the long-term plan," Ward said. "He likes the horse. He was very impressed with his race down there. He figures he'll have a big shot in the Travers.''

Prado was aboard Sky Mesa for all three of his victories last year, including the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga. Prado rode Sky Mesa in the Dwyer, where he finished third behind Strong Hope and Nacheezmo. But in the Haskell, Prado elected to ride Peace Rules, whom he had ridden to victories in the Louisiana Derby and Blue Grass. Prado won the Haskell aboard Peace Rules, who defeated Sky Mesa, ridden by Robby Albarado, by 1 3/4 lengths.

But with Peace Rules going to the Pacific Classic on Aug. 24, Prado was left without a Travers mount.

Pletcher on record pace

Having saddled 15 winners in the first 12 days of the meet, it is not far-fetched to think trainer Todd Pletcher will set a record for most wins at a Saratoga meet. Syl Veitch set the current record of 24 wins in 1954 when the meet was 24 days. This year's meet is 36 days.

Pletcher, who set a Belmont spring-summer meet record for wins with 40, has already started 48 horses at this meet and figures to have enough runners to get the record. Pletcher had six horses entered on Wednesday and three more on Thursday.

"If we win more than 24, I'd like to do it within 24 days, but I'm not counting on it," Pletcher said.

On Friday, Pletcher plans to send out Finality in the $100,000 West Point Handicap for New York-breds, and on Saturday he will saddle the United Nations Handicap winner, Balto Star, in the Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational.

Also Saturday, Pletcher will be represented by Colita in the $600,000 West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer Park. On Tuesday, Colita worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds over a sloppy Saratoga main track.

With Anticipation's training disrupted again

With Anticipation had a scheduled work postponed on Tuesday morning, the latest in a series of setbacks that have made his 2003 campaign a bust so far. The popular 8-year-old gelding has raced three times and has beaten a total of three horses, finishing last in two of his starts.

Trainer Jonathan Sheppard is hoping that With Anticipation can return to his best form in Saturday's Grade 1, $500,000 Sword Dancer Handicap, which With Anticipation has won the past two seasons. But the altered training schedule, Sheppard said, was not ideal.

"I'm concerned about the weather," Sheppard said on an overcast, humid Tuesday morning. "He was supposed to work on the grass today, but they canceled grass works. I'll go tomorrow, but I'll have to go shorter. Each day you get closer to a race, you have to go shorter, and it's not as meaningful. If I can't get him on the grass tomorrow, I'll work him on the dirt. This is not what I want. He needs a strong, hard work."

Sheppard said he believes With Anticipation has not had the proper preparation for any of his races this year. "I've never felt I had him tight. It's not his fault." Sheppard said.

With Anticipation has lost five straight races since taking last year's Man o' War Stakes at Belmont Park. He has won 15 times in 47 lifetime starts.

In addition to With Anticipation, the Sword Dancer is expected to include Ballingarry, Balto Star, Denon, Dr. Brendler, Kim Loves Bucky, Lunar Sovereign, Meridiana, Puerto Banus, Quest Star, and Whitmore's Conn.

Whoopi Cat bought by Tabor

Whoopi Cat, a 2-year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat who won her maiden by six lengths at Belmont last month, was purchased privately by Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith from owner-breed Richard Giacopelli.

The purchase price was not disclosed. The filly will remain with trainer Patrick Biancone, who plans on running her in Monday's Grade 2, $150,000 Adirondack Stakes.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman