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Frankel Hardly Flustered After Kentucky Derby Loss

May 05, 2003|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Most of last week, trainer Bobby Frankel wore natty black caps and shirts with Empire Maker's name neatly stenciled on them in red. Frankel even joked one day that the outfits might become a permanent line. At his barn at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after favored Empire Maker finished second in the Kentucky Derby, Frankel had abandoned the black for a bright red Windbreaker.

His change in wardrobe notwithstanding, Frankel hasn't abandoned Empire Maker.

"A lot of great horses get beat here and still go on to be super horses," Frankel said.

When Funny Cide, at 12-1, finished 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Empire Maker on Saturday, the Derby saw its 23rd favorite lose in the last 24 years. The only horse to break the ignominious streak has been Fusaichi Pegasus, who won in 2000.

A decade ago or less, Frankel might have kicked the barn and stormed off. Not this time. He was philosophical about the setback, which was also marked by a third-place finish by Peace Rules, Empire Maker's stablemate.

"I'm OK," Frankel said Sunday. "I'm surprising myself that I'm OK."

When the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown, is run at Pimlico on May 17, Frankel probably will start at least one horse.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday May 07, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 1 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
Kentucky Derby -- It was reported incorrectly in a Sports article Monday that Funny Cide was the first gelding to win the Kentucky Derby. Funny Cide was the first gelding to win the Derby since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.

That will probably be Peace Rules, although he didn't completely rule out Empire Maker or Midas Eyes, winner of the Derby Trial here on April 26.

"At least both of my horses fired in the Derby," Frankel said. "They didn't necessarily give it their best shot, but they fired. Empire Maker was three wide, but I still thought he was going to win. Unfortunately, it's not like the Super Bowl, where they play four quarters, or the World Series, where you have a bunch of games. You only get one shot with a horse in the Derby."

In a Derby prep at Aqueduct three weeks ago, Empire Maker beat Funny Cide by a half-length, after which both Frankel and jockey Jerry Bailey said that they won without their colt going full throttle. They were ostensibly saving something for the Derby.

The Funny Cide camp -- trainer Barclay Tagg and jockey Jose Santos -- has disputed this, and on Sunday Frankel said: "Maybe Jerry should have gotten after him in the Wood. But that's second-guessing."

Frankel won three other stakes on the Derby day card and finished second in another stake before his 2-3 finish in the Derby. Now, instead of saddling a Triple Crown aspirant in the Preakness, he'll be trying to play the spoiler as Funny Cide attempts to become the first horse to sweep the series since Affirmed in 1978.

Funny Cide, the first gelding and the first New York-bred to win the Derby, was unique in other ways. The 65-year-old Tagg was making his Derby debut, and Santos hadn't won the race before.

"Funny Cide broke all the rules," said trainer T.V. Smith, whose Offlee Wild finished 12th. "Besides all the other things, he didn't train over the track and he had never won a race farther than a mile."

Other possibles for the Preakness include Eye Of The Tiger (fifth in the Derby); Domestic Dispute (10th); Scrimshaw (11th); and Indian Express (14th), with another rider replacing Tyler Baze. The new shooters will come from a group that includes Senor Swinger, Trust N Luck and Cherokee's Boy. Injured in the race was Buddy Gil (sixth), who has bone chips in an undisclosed area, and Ten Most Wanted, a ninth-place disappointment at 6-1, may have a low-grade virus that compromised his chances.

Tagg will not be surprised if a large field runs at Pimlico. "What I'd really like is a walkover," he joked. "But people will think that we were lucky. And after Bobby's horse [Empire Maker] got beat, they'll think that this is not that good of a year for 3-year-olds, and lot of them will want to take a shot."

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