By Steve Haskin, Phil Janack
and Lenny Shulman
Sackatoga Stable's Funny Cide, whose status for Saturday's Travers Stakes has been termed "highly unlikely" by trainer Barclay Tagg, took a step closer to entering Wednesday when he worked a half-mile in :47 4/5 Tuesday morning.Exercise rider and assistant trainer Robin Smullen said the son of Distorted Humor galloped out 6 furlongs in around 1:13.Tagg still is unsure whether Funny Cide will enter tomorrow, saying a lot will depend on how the gelding comes out of the work and eats up. He also is not happy about running the horse against the top 3-year-olds in the country off only one half-mile work since the Haskell Invitational on Aug. 3.The time was the fourth-fastest of 19 works at the distance and was two-fifths of a second slower than the top time recorded by Mr. Deux."I just needed to do a little something with him, so that's what I did," Tagg said. "He seemed fine. he cooled out real easily, didn't sweat too much and blew off real quick. He's doing all right."It was the first work for the New York-bred gelding since finishing a dull third in the Haskell. The next morning, Funny Cide spiked a fever of 102 and was treated with antibiotics for several days.He galloped regularly since Aug. 8, but did not make what would have been a routine work Aug. 13, which would have been the norm under Tagg's normal pattern of 10 days from a race and six days apart afterward, leading up to the next start. Tuesday's breeze fit that schedule."Sometimes when a horse's system is kind of stagnant and nothing changes, you give him a little blowout like that and they go one way or the other," Tagg said. "You find out something. He seemed to go well and he seemed to come out of it well."Smullen asked an outrider for assistance in pulling Funny Cide up following the work."I called for the outrider because I didn't want to really grab him because his mouth is so sensitive. It's easier to pull him up when he's got an outrider there," she said. "We didn't really want to gallop out in 1:13 and he wasn't slowing down. He wanted to keep rocking around there. He feels like he's coming back to himself."It remains unclear whether Funny Cide will be entered in the Travers. The
field will be drawn Wednesday morning.The owners of Sackatoga Stable have already said they would put up the $5,000 fee to enter him, but left the final decision up to Tagg. Already nominated for $1,000, it would cost another $5,000 to run."I don't know. I'm not sure what I'm going to do," Tagg said. "He's had one little half-mile work since the Haskell, and he's supposed to run against the best horses in the world? If he eats his lunch, if he eats his night mash, if he eats his late-night feed and seems fine tomorrow and his temperature is normal and everything's fine, maybe I'll enter him. Maybe I won't. There's a lot of barometers that go into this. He's been sick. His blood's been messed up."If he's all right tomorrow, I might enter him," Tagg continued. "If he's all right Saturday, I might run him. I can't answer that question right now. I think it's unlikely that he'll run, but if it came up a really light field or the race fell
apart, I'd feel kind of stupid not having him in there. He's a very sound horse,
and he's in reasonably good condition and he's reasonably healthy now.""We seem to be on the right track and moving forward," said Sackatoga managing partner Jack Knowlton. "There probably will be another blood test, but I was encouraged to see him on the track for a work. We've discussed entering, and will make that decision tomorrow morning. The entry fee of $5,000 is not an issue at all if Barclay feels he'd like to enter and give it a few more days before making a decision. It's all in his court. But right now we're encouraged."If Funny cide does run he likely will face five opponents – Empire Maker, Sky Mesa, Strong Hope, Ten Most Wanted, and Eye of the Tiger.Jerry Bailey, rider of Empire Maker, said his colt won't spot Strong Hope the same big lead he did in the Jim Dandy. "I can put him anywhere I want," Bailey said on a national teleconference. "He can jump into the race anytime I ask him. There was too much of a gap last time. I wanted to be about 4 lengths off the lead, but I got 6 lengths back. I will be much closer to Strong Hope this time, and I won't need anyone's help."Trainer John Ward said his charge, Sky Mesa, would have to step up a notch to win the Travers considering the extra 1/4 mile and the eight pounds he'll be picking up from the Haskell. "His coat looks good and he's really coming to himself," noted Ward. "He's caught up seasoning-wise and he's fresh mentally. I think he's still on the improve, and if he improves off the Haskell, he will be in the mix the last 70 yards."