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Time Seemed Perfect for Funny Cide

Tagg liked the fractions, but after gelding came up short, so did the trainer with reporters.

June 08, 2003|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

ELMONT, N.Y — Trainer Barclay Tagg and jockey Jose Santos talked briefly after Funny Cide's Triple Crown aspirations were buried in the mud at Belmont Park on Saturday.

"When I saw the horse do [a half-mile] in :48 and change, and do [six furlongs] in 1:13 and change, I thought we were home free," Tagg said.

But Funny Cide couldn't protect the lead in the Belmont Stakes and ran third, five lengths behind Empire Maker, with Ten Most Wanted, a 9-1 shot, finishing in between the two rivals.

"With those [soft] fractions, I would have thought that Funny Cide would have kicked in better," said Wally Dollase, who trains Ten Most Wanted. "On a normal track, he might have gone all the way."

Tagg declined a request by a track official to go to an interview room -- as trainers Bob Baffert and Wayne Lukas had done after recent Belmont defeats -- and didn't lift an embargo on his barn that started Friday at noon and won't end until this morning.

Tagg refused to blame Funny Cide's extra-fast workout last Tuesday. The horse went five furlongs in a blistering 57 4/5 seconds.

"I didn't work him that fast on purpose, but it didn't matter," Tagg said. "He always runs better races after he works fast."

Tagg was irked by a question about how he felt when Empire Maker pulled alongside Funny Cide on the far turn.

"Horses come up to other horses all the time," he said. "Then they either pass them or they don't."

Trainer Bobby Frankel, who had a full day with other stakes on the Belmont card, saw his favored Midas Eyes get run down by Posse at the wire in the $200,000 Riva Ridge. After that, for good luck Frankel abandoned his seat and went into the Belmont Park racing secretary's office to watch the Manhattan Handicap and the Belmont on closed-circuit TV. Frankel's Denon, ridden by Jerry Bailey, won the $400,000 Manhattan.

Frankel, a member of the Racing Hall of Fame, had run 11 horses -- six in the Kentucky Derby, three in the Preakness and two in the Belmont -- before he finally won a Triple Crown race with Empire Maker.

"I finished second in the Derby twice, and second twice in the Belmont," Frankel said. "It wasn't like I was 0 for 50 or something. I wasn't worried about never winning one."

When Bailey pulled up Empire Maker after the Belmont, he said to the outrider, "It'd be a shame if they booed this horse."

Boo the crowd did.

"It's just a New York crowd," Bailey said, "and I don't think they were really booing my horse. I think they were just disappointed that there was no Triple Crown champion again."

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