04/08/2008 11:00PM

Tough spot to launch a comeback


SAN MATEO, Calif. - If trainer Valerie Rhoden wanted to find a tough first test for the comebacking Funny Flyer, she certainly succeeded. The 6-year-old stakes-placed gelding makes his first start in 11 months in Friday's Bay Meadows feature, a $25,000 claimer at six furlongs.

He'll be meeting a pair of strong entrants sent out by trainer Billy Morey: Bradford, who has a win and a second in his two starts this year, and Shore Patrol, winner of four straight, including his last two here.

Indian Weaver, who has won here twice, comes north for this race. The stakes-placed Iced Out rounds out the field.

As strong as the competition might seem, it is a step down for Funny Flyer, who has overcome a series of physical problems that have allowed him to race only three times in the past two years.

In his lone 2006 start, he finished fifth in a Del Mar optional claimer won by the stakes winner Bushwacker. Last year, he ran fifth to the stakes winner Barber in a Bay Meadows optional claimer after nearly eight months on the sidelines, then ran third behind the stakes winners Another Kris and Wind Water in a Golden Gate optional claimer on May 3, which was his last start.

"There were some problems," Rhoden said about Funny Flyer's 11-month layoff. "He's had his share of problems throughout his career. We've given him the time he's needed."

A Jeff Finkel homebred, Funny Flyer graduated in his debut and won 2 of his first 3 starts.

Rhoden is stabled at Golden Gate Fields, where Funny Flyer has been training. She considered waiting a month for the Golden Gate Fields meet to start him, but said he's ready to run now.

"It's hard to pass up a race if you're ready to go," she said. "It's a logical time and a logical place for him.

"He lets you know when he's ready. . . . His last two works have been pretty darn nice."

Funny Flyer posted a 1:13.60 six-furlong move on March 30 and a 47.40 half-mile that was second-best of 34 workers that day at Golden Gate.

Funny Flyer should get a good stalking trip behind Bradford, who drew the outside post in the field of five, and Shore Patrol, who breaks from the rail. They are likely to duel from the opening of the starting gate.