03/30/2004 1:00AM

Workout may earn Cuba spot in Wood


OZONE PARK, N.Y. - After a strong workout on Monday at Belmont Park, Cuba has put himself in the Wood Memorial picture.

Tom Bush, Cuba's trainer, said he is thinking about running the son of Not for Love in the $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 10.

Wearing blinkers for the first time, Cuba sizzled in a five-furlong work in 59.27 seconds over the training track with jockey Shaun Bridgmohan aboard. It was the fastest of 24 works at the distance.

Bush said the time was even better than it appeared because Cuba worked an eighth of a mile past the wire into the turn.

"That's really faster than a normal work," said Bush, who trains Cuba for Cam Allard. "He was just cruising and not anxious - he was just covering the ground. Shaun said he jumped a shadow at the three-eighths pole and he tapped him on the shoulder. That put him in the bridle."

In his last start, on March 12, Cuba finished second to Hornshope in a first-level allowance race around two turns. Cuba, who was beaten a half-length and earned a 92 Beyer Speed Figure, set the pace and dug in when challenged by Hornshope in the final furlong. On Feb. 28, Cuba won a two-turn maiden race by 5 3/4 lengths in his third start.

Bush said he believes the addition of blinkers will sharpen Cuba in his next race.

"He's not quite as responsive as I would like," Bush said. "Shaun said when he asks him to pick it up, he stays in a nice idle. I think the blinkers will help."

After working Cuba again early next week, Bush will make a decision regarding the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial. If he doesn't run there, Cuba might go in an allowance race on the Wood undercard.

"I would be mortified if he ran better in the allowance race than they did in the Wood," Bush said. "Everyone gets this bug when they have a nice 3-year-old. This colt definitely acts like he has the ability. In his last race, he galloped out very strong in front of [Hornshope], and a mile and an eighth is well within his scope."

If Cuba runs in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial, Bush will have to find another rider, because Bridgmohan is committed to Swingforthefences.

Others being pointed to the Wood Memorial are Sinister G, Value Plus, Eddington, Master David, Tapit, Little Matth Man, and Bride's Best Boy.

Alke heading to Belmont after Dubai trip

Alke, the runner-up in the $2 million Golden Shaheen Sprint in Dubai last Saturday, was scheduled to arrive Wednesday at Belmont, where he will spend a few days in quarantine.

Todd Pletcher, Alke's trainer, said his first major objective for the 4-year-old will be the $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder on July 10.

"We'll see how he comes out of the [Dubai] trip; sometimes it's hard to tell," Pletcher said. "The Calder race will be our target, and we'll see if he runs before that or not."

Before running in Dubai, Alke won four consecutive races, including the Grade 3 Deputy Minister at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 7.

Speightstown, another stakes-winning sprinter in Pletcher's barn, returned from a 10-month layoff to win last Saturday's Artax Handicap at Gulfstream. Speightstown, whose career has been punctuated by injury-related layoffs, will be pointed to the $200,000 Churchill Downs Handicap on the Kentucky Derby undercard on May 1.

Speightstown's latest layoff was a result of a hairline fracture in his right shoulder.

"He's a very talented horse but has had a series of different setbacks," Pletcher said. "The shoulder injury is fairly uncommon. I figured he would run well fresh, and since there aren't too many allowance conditions he's eligible for, [the Artax] was a good spot for him."

Pletcher said Speightstown would train at Keeneland for his next start.

Pletcher will work Strong Hope and Value Plus in Florida on Sunday before shipping them to New York on Tuesday. Strong Hope will run next in the Grade 1 Carter on the Wood Memorial undercard, and Value Plus will run in the Wood.

Funny Cide works; ready to ship for Excelsior

Funny Cide, the likely favorite for Saturday's $200,000 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap, worked a half-mile in 47.40 at Palm Meadows training center in Florida on Tuesday.

The New York-bred gelding was scheduled to arrive at Belmont later in the day.

Lila Paige leads short field in feature

A first-level allowance with a purse of $44,000 is the Thursday feature. Five 3-year-old fillies - Classic Example, Tiara Gin, Shout, Lila Paige, and Double Lock - were entered in the mile race.

Lila Paige made up ground in the stretch of her last race, which came at this level, finishing second on March 18. Pablo Fragoso, the leading rider at the meet, rides Lila Paige for trainer Phil Johnson, who has won with his last three starters.

If Double Lock runs back to her maiden win at this trip last November, she figures in the mix under jockey Javier Castellano.

* Trainer Del Carroll's mother, Peggy Neloy, died of a heart attack on Sunday in Florida. Neloy, 83, was married to the late Eddie Neloy, who trained Buckpasser, the Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old colt of 1966.

* Jockey Aaron Gryder, formerly represented by agent Max Hall, has hired Tony Micallef. Hall returned to his home in Massachusetts.

* Weather permitting, Belmont's main track will open for the season on Friday or Saturday. Rain is in the forecast for Tuesday evening through Friday.