09/30/2003 12:00AM

Two choices for Funny Cide


ELMONT, N.Y. - Having ruled out running Funny Cide this weekend, trainer Barclay Tagg is now down to two options for the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner's return to the races. The choices are either the $250,000 Empire Classic at Belmont Park on Oct. 18 or the $100,000 Discovery Handicap at Aqueduct on Oct. 29.

"I'll probably enter him in the Empire Classic and if I don't like the post or I don't like the weather or I don't like the competition or I don't like the surface I won't run him,'' Tagg said Tuesday morning. "Then I'll go to the Discovery. We'll see how it works.''

Tuesday morning, Funny Cide worked a solid five furlongs in 59.52 seconds, but neither Tagg nor exercise rider Robin Smullen feel Funny Cide has done enough to run in Friday night's Meadowlands Cup or Saturday night's Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park.

Funny Cide has not run since finishing third in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park on Aug. 3.

Now, Tagg must now decide whether to run Funny Cide against New York-breds in the Empire Classic or open-company 3-year-olds in the Discovery.

On their own, neither race will do Funny Cide any good as far as winning a 3-year-old championship. But, either race would serve him well as a prep for the Grade 1, $350,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 29, a race that could help Funny Cide win an Eclipse Award.

"Everybody says he ought to be 3-year-old champion anyway,'' Tagg said. "He's beaten the horses that have beaten him and he's beaten all of them in the biggest races there are. He really shouldn't have to prove anything. I would like to run him once or twice more and he's capable of winning those races so there's no doubt.''

Funny Cide defeated Empire Maker, Peace Rules, and Ten Most Wanted in the Kentucky Derby. Empire Maker has defeated Funny Cide in the Belmont Stakes and Wood Memorial while Funny Cide is 1-1 versus Ten Most Wanted and 2-2 versus Peace Rules.

Funny Cide's workout Tuesday was a good one. His final time equaled the fastest of 24 moves at the distance. Belmont clockers credited him with an opening quarter in 23.60 seconds, three furlongs in 35 seconds, and caught him galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.

Island Fashion will run, but where?

Tagg also sent out Alabama winner Island Fashion winner for a five-furlong work Tuesday that was timed in 1:01.85, a tad slower than the trainer wanted. However, Tagg said Island Fashion is ready to run this weekend.

Owner Jeffrey Nielsen has not yet decided whether to run Island Fashion in Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Beldame Stakes here or ship to Philadelphia Park for Saturday's $250,000 Cotillion, a Grade 2 race restricted to 3-year-olds. Island Fashion was entered in the Cotillion and drew post 3 in the 10-horse field. No rider was named for her in the Cotillion, but Nielsen said Iggy Puglisi would ride Island Fashion in that race, if she were to run.

"The purse is an issue, getting a race against older horses is an issue,'' said Nielsen, whose filly also won the Grade 3 Delaware Oaks. "The Cotillion is a much easier race. I'm going to spend the next day or so thinking about it.''

Prior to entering the Cotillion, Tagg indicated a desire to run in New York because he knew he could get jockey John Velazquez, who rode Island Fashion to victory in the Alabama.

As of Tuesday, there were only four definite runners for the Beldame: Bird Town, Buy the Sport, Passing Shot, and Sightseek. Summer Colony is under consideration for both the Beldame and the $500,000 Overbrook Spinster, run the following day at Keeneland.

Mineshaft back on track

While there is still no decision on whether he will run in the Breeders' Cup Classic, Mineshaft, the quadruple Grade 1-winning older horse, went back to the track on Tuesday, jogging 1 3/8 miles the wrong way around Belmont's main track.

Mineshaft had only two days off since winning Saturday's $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup.

"He was feeling pretty good,'' trainer Neil Howard said. "When we go back to the track after three days off, he's always a little high. I figured by jogging him today it would help fend off any possible body soreness.''

Mineshaft was scheduled to be flown back to Kentucky on Wednesday. He will train at Churchill Downs until a decision is made to run in the Classic or be retired.

Gygistar will go to BC Sprint

Gygistar came out of his fourth-place finish as the favorite in last Saturday's Vosburgh in good order and will be pointed to the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

Gygistar's trainer, Mark Hennig, said the gelding might have been second in the Grade 1 Vosburgh had he not been stuck on the rail during the stretch run. He was beaten 9 1/2 lengths by the winner, Ghostzapper.

"He had a tough inside trip," Hennig said. "Johnny [Velazquez] said if he had any momentum, he might have been second. He galloped out well and came back well. On his day, he's as good as any sprinter around."

Gygistar, whose campaign was abbreviated this year because he spent some time on the sidelines recovering from surgery for a knee chip, has earned only four Breeders' Cup points.

"He doesn't have the points, so I hope it doesn't overfill or, if it does, he gets selected," Hennig said. "Had he been running, he definitely would have had the points."

McLaughlin: One stays, other ships

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has tabbed Millennium Dragon for Saturday's $350,000 Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap at Belmont and will run Trademark in the $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile the same day at Keeneland.

McLaughlin decided to send Trademark, a 7-year-old who won the Grade 2 Bernard Baruch and Grade 2 Fourstardave in his last two starts, to Keeneland instead of running here because of the size of the Shadwell purse.

"Mainly, it's because [Trademark] is not Breeders' Cup-nominated and he's a gelding," McLaughlin said. "We're trying to earn as much as we can with him."

McLaughlin looks like he has a capable runner for the Kelso in Millennium Dragon, who ran super in an allowance race at Belmont Park on Sept. 17. He won the grass race by two lengths and covered the seven furlongs in 1:20.20, .32 seconds off the course record.

Others pointing to the Kelso are Decarchy (118 pounds); North East Bound (113); Political Attack (113); Joe's Son Joey (112); and Pay the Preacher (111). Trainer Christophe Clement plans on running Rouvres, and either Proud Man or Voodoo Dancer.

McLaughlin reported that Lunar Sovereign, who finished last as the second choice in last Saturday's Turf Classic, most likely displaced his palate during the race and will get some time off.

"It appeared he displaced because he made that type of noise with six furlongs to go," McLaughlin said. "We are probably going to take it easy with him for a little while."

In his start prior to the Turf Classic, Lunar Sovereign won the Grade 1 Man o' War.

Nakatani will ride Buy the Sport

Buy the Sport, the upset winner of the Grade 1 Gazelle, will have a new rider in Saturday's Beldame. Pat Day, who rode Buy the Sport in the Gazelle, will be riding at Keeneland on Saturday, so Corey Nakatani has picked up the mount.

Nakatani and Buy the Sport got acquainted last Saturday when Nakatani worked the 3-year-old filly over Belmont's main track. Buy the Sport covered five furlongs in 1:03.61, slower than what her trainer, Bobby Barbara, had anticipated.

"She worked a little slow; Corey took her for a little walk in the park," Barbara said. "She worked the week before in 48 and I thought she would work the same way. Corey sat on her the whole way and he said he likes to leave a little something in the tank. I can't argue with that. I'm not worried about her fitness."

* Voodoo Dancer, the Diana winner, worked four furlongs in 50.75 seconds Tuesday morning. Trainer Christophe Clement said he would make a decision by Thursday whether to run her in the Kelso against males here on Saturday or the WinStar Galaxy at Keeneland on Sunday.

* Harmony Lodge, working for Sunday's $150,000 Gallant Bloom, covered a half-mile in 49.52 on the main track.

- additional reporting by Karen M. Johnson