Saratoga Notebook: Funny Cide Beats Rain; Wild and Wicked in Haskell; Whitney Ace Medaglia d'Oro Drills; Zito Fired Up

By Mike Kane and Phil Janack

Fearing a wet track for Monday's scheduled breeze, trainer Barclay Tagg worked Kentucky Derby (gr.I) and Preakness (gr.I) winner Funny Cide early Sunday morning at Saratoga Race Course.

Funny Cide is scheduled to return to the races Sunday in the Haskell Invitational (gr.I) at Monmouth Park on Aug. 3.

Under exercise rider and assistant trainer Robin Smullen, the New York-bred gelding breezed six furlongs in 1:12.47 shortly after the main track opened for training at 5:30 a.m.

Tagg said that because it was raining when he arrived at the track at 3:45 a.m. and more rain was in the forecast for later in the day, he decided to work Sackatoga Stable's pride and joy a little early. The change actually put Funny Cide back on Tagg's typical training schedule of working every six days.

"I was gonna put it off another day to get him little closer to the race," Tagg said. "I wasn't sure what tomorrow would bring, so I worked him."

The conditioner said he is still developing his plan for the remainder of the week.

"I'll walk him tomorrow, and gallop him up to the race probably and ship him down there and run him and see what happens," Tagg said. "I'm not sure. I might even, if he's doing real good and eating like a hog and filling up on me, blow him out on Thursday or Friday or Saturday, I don't know."

Tagg caught Funny Cide in 1:12, a couple of tickets faster than the clockers.

"He went in :24 1/5 the first quarter, nice and relaxed," Smullen said. "I think the other split was :37 and change. He galloped out in 1:25 3/5.

The time for the breeze was just what Tagg had requested.

"Barclay told me he wanted me to go in :12. He didn't want me to work in :11," Smullen said.

"When I sent him off and said this is just a nice relaxing pace early, he was perfectly content. I dropped the reins and he was fine. Sometimes he's a little bit rank, but he was not at all, and hasn't been since the Belmont (gr.I). All of his works have been relaxed early."

Smullen smiled at the suggestion that Funny Cide is beginning to mature as a work horse.

"Sounds like it. He feels like it," she said. "I'm galloping in company every morning. I wasn't even able to gallop him before, and now I'm galloping him in company."

Tagg said he is likely to ship Funny Cide to Monmouth the morning of the race.

Wild and Wicked Haskell-Bound

Trainer Kenny McPeek said Sunday morning that his unbeaten Ohio Derby (gr.II) winner Wild and Wicked will run in the Haskell Invitational (gr.I) instead of the Jim Dandy (gr.II) at Saratoga.

McPeek said a few factors played in the decision to send Mr. and Mrs. R. David Randal's homebred Wild Again colt to New Jersey to face Funny Cide, Peace Rules and Sky Mesa.

"Five pounds from Funny Cide, $1 million, grade I," McPeek said. "Those are probably the biggest three reasons. We only get two pounds from Empire Maker to run here for half the money."

Wild and Wicked extended his record to three victories in the Ohio Derby. The Haskell will be his first try against major stakes winners.

"The horse is very good right now," McPeek said. "You can't imagine how good he's training. Much better than when he went into the Ohio Derby.

"We think this horse is a long-term stallion prospect, so getting a shot at a Grade I is pretty vital. And we want to see how he fits with some of the others."

Medaglia d'Oro Drills for Whitney

Likely Whitney Handicap (gr.I) favorite Medaglia d'Oro breezed six furlongs in a 1:12.30 Sunday, the fastest of four at the distance, under jockey Aaron Gryder.

The Whitney will be Medaglia d'Oro's first race since his victory in the Oaklawn Handicap (gr.II) on April 5. Medaglia d'Oro injured a foot in his stall and missed training time and two scheduled races.

"He looked very good on the track," said trainer Bobby Frankel. "He went by himself, but there happened to be a horse that broke off way in front of him that made him pay attention."

Even though the 4-year-old missed time with the injury, Frankel said he is still one of the top horses in the handicap division

"Looking at him, he looks like he's on top of his game," Frankel said.

Milwaukee Brew also worked for Frankel Sunday in preparation for a start in the Pacific Classic (gr.I). The Stronach Stable horse breezed four furlongs in :49.32 and Frankel said he hoped to find a prep race at Saratoga.

"He's actually not ready to run in the Whitney," Frankel said. "If you look back when he won the two Santa Anita Handicaps, he ran his best races with three-four weeks between starts," Frankel said.

Metropolitan Mile (gr.I) winner Aldebaran worked four furlongs in :48.77 for the Forego (gr.I) on Aug. 31.

Test Tightener Has Zito Fired Up

Aside from a victory, trainer Nick Zito said he got exactly what he wanted for Bird Town in Saturday's Test (gr. I).

Sunday morning, Zito was far from displeased by running second to Lady Tak, who came within a fifth of a second of setting a seven-furlong track record.

"That was the 78th Test, so that means Bird Town would have won
77 of them probably. She would have had to break a world record to beat her," he said. "She came out good and, knock wood, everything looks good. That's all you can ask for, right?"

A Marylou Whitney homebred with wins in the Acorn (gr.I) and the Kentucky Oaks (gr.I), Bird Town was using the Test as a prep for the ultimate goal, the Alabama (gr.I) on Aug. 16 at 11/4 miles.

"She got beat by a very fast horse. It takes nothing away from our credibility," Zito said. "We didn't lose a notch. We just gained some more status, I think. She's run in three Grade Is, won two and run second. She didn't lose anything.

"She's trained seven strong weeks up here and now she's had an incredible tightener. You want to win because it's the Test, but next to winning that's probably the best thing. The Whitneys, they're happy to be in these races. Hopefully, we'll have another good three weeks. I know one thing, she'll perform as good as she can. We're looking forward to it."

Around the Spa

Frankel said that Ghostzapper, an allowance winner on Saturday, may go on to the King's Bishop (gr.I) on Aug. 23. "We'll see how he acts," Frankel said.

According to Frankel, he is considering Heat Haze and Pertusiane, who were second and third, respectively, in the Diana Handicap (gr.I) on Saturday for the Beverly D. (gr.I) on Aug. 16 at Arlington Park. Another Beverly D. candidate from Frankel's barn is European stakes winner Zenda, who easily won an allowance race at Saratoga Sunday as the 2-5 favorite.

Nacheezmo, a closing second by a neck in the Dwyer (gr.II), breezed six furlongs in 1:12.92 for trainer H. James Bond. The colt is nominated for the Jim Dandy, but Bond said he hasn't decided whether he will run in the race.