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Belmont's Top 3 Being Pointed Toward Travers

Likely meeting between Empire Maker and Funny Cide in $1-million race at Saratoga in August figures to include Ten Most Wanted.

June 09, 2003|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

ELMONT, N.Y — ELMONT, N.Y. -- The next meeting between Empire Maker and Funny Cide is likely to come in the $1-million Travers at Saratoga on Aug. 23, but it will be more than a two-horse race. Pencil in Ten Most Wanted, whose sire, Deputy Commander, won the Travers in 1997.

Wally Dollase trained Deputy Commander and he also trains Ten Most Wanted, who finished second to Empire Maker, beaten by three-quarters of a length, in Saturday's Belmont Stakes, a race that cost Funny Cide the Triple Crown title and a $5-million bonus.

In the stretch run of the Belmont, Empire Maker had disposed of Funny Cide, but then trainer Bobby Frankel's colt needed to withstand Ten Most Wanted and Pat Day, who were charging from the outside. In the Belmont Park racing secretary's office, where Frankel had sequestered himself to watch the race, he looked at a TV screen and shouted, "Oh, no!" Winless with 11 horses in Triple Crown races before Saturday, Frankel thought for an instant that the 135th Belmont was going to elude him as well.

By Sunday morning, Frankel concluded that his fears were unfounded. "Ten Most Wanted wasn't going to beat me, no matter what," he said. "When he came up to the rump of Empire Maker, my horse took off again."

All three of the top finishers in the Belmont may race before the Travers. Funny Cide is likely to show up at the $1-million Haskell Handicap on Aug. 3 at Monmouth Park, and Dollase, while expressing a desire to run in the Travers, said that a race before that is not out of the question.

Empire Maker is scheduled to run in the Jim Dandy, a popular Travers prep, at Saratoga on the same day as the Haskell. One of Frankel's other good 3-year-olds, Peace Rules, who was third in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Preakness, is a probable for the Haskell.

"The Travers should be good for racing," Frankel said. "We'll be there, and then it's up to whoever wants to take me on."

While Frankel is looking forward to the Travers, Barclay Tagg, the saturnine trainer of Funny Cide, is not eager to hype the race. Tagg, who was thrust into the national limelight for the first time after 30 years of training, is moody in victory, and Sunday morning at Belmont he was predictably grouchy in defeat. He challenged questions, said he wouldn't answer questions that had been asked many times before, and was loathe to delineate Funny Cide's defeat over a sloppy track that had been pelted all day by rain.

"People told me going into the race that my horse liked the mud, but I never subscribed to that," Tagg said. "I would have preferred that my horse had been covered up [by another horse] going into the first turn, but there's nothing you can do about that. He was switching [lead feet] a lot, he was rank [hard to handle], and he wasn't handling the track. I guess all of that cost me the race.

"I'd like to win the Travers, but I'm not going to get into a big thing with Frankel about that. He's got the advantage on me right now."

Ten Most Wanted, like Empire Maker, didn't run in the Preakness. Ten Most Wanted was a hot horse going into the Derby, based on his win in the Illinois Derby, but he was slammed around leaving the gate, hurt his back and ran ninth at Churchill Downs.

"He couldn't walk after the Derby," said Cincy Dollase, who is married to Ten Most Wanted's trainer and helps him around the barn. "Then for one heartbeat, we thought we were going to win the Belmont."

Ten Most Wanted underwent chiropractic treatment between the Derby and the Belmont, and was able to train uninterrupted in sunny California while Frankel, Tagg and other trainers were forced to squeeze in workouts during a rainy spring in New York.

"I'm so happy with the way he ran," Wally Dollase said. "He's never run on the kind of track they had Saturday, and look how well he did. With an eighth of a mile to go, I thought we had a chance to win."

One of the charms of the Funny Cide Triple Crown story was the 10-man ownership team that bought the New York-bred so cheaply, for $75,000, and won the Derby and the Preakness with him. Ten Most Wanted, who also races for a 10-partner syndicate, was bought by Dollase for a reasonable $145,000 as an unraced 2-year-old. Like Funny Cide, Ten Most Wanted had been sold before. He cost $70,000 when he went through the sales ring as a yearling.

Dollase himself owns a small piece of Ten Most Wanted. The partners with the biggest chunks are J. Paul Reddam, who bought 25% a couple of weeks before the Derby, and Mike Jarvis, who owns 20%. Ten Most Wanted's second-place share of the Belmont purse, worth $200,000, increased his career total to $573,460.

Dollase, having missed his plane back to Los Angeles on Sunday morning, returned to Belmont Park and was seen grazing Ten Most Wanted while he and his wife waited for a later flight. Ten Most Wanted will be flown home Tuesday.

"Considering the trainer he's got and the five weeks he had between races, this has to be a very nice horse," Dollase joked.

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