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Expected Rivalry May Fizzle Out

Empire Maker and Funny Cide, Triple Crown stars, are taking divergent paths and might not meet again.

September 16, 2003|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

When Empire Maker and Funny Cide crossed the finish line at the Belmont Stakes in June, racing was looking forward to a long-running rivalry between the stars of the Triple Crown. But now it turns out that Empire Maker and Funny Cide probably won't meet again, not even in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

Bobby Frankel, who trains Empire Maker, is on a path that is expected to send his colt to Santa Anita for the $4-million race, but Barclay Tagg, who trains Funny Cide, indicated to Associated Press on Monday that his gelding is headed in a different direction.

Funny Cide's next start -- and his first since running third in the Haskell at Monmouth Park on Aug. 3 -- could be on Oct. 4, either against older horses in the $250,000 Kelso Handicap at Belmont Park or the $400,000 Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park.

Another race eyed by Tagg is the $350,000 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on Nov. 29.

Tagg wants to win the 3-year-old title with his Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner, but it would appear to be Empire Maker's championship to lose rather than Funny Cide's to win. Empire Maker's victory over Funny Cide in the Belmont, plus a win against older horses -- in the $1-million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on Sept. 27 or the Breeders' Cup Classic -- could be enough to sway voters. Empire Maker, second in the Kentucky Derby, didn't run in the Preakness, and besides the Belmont, has defeated Funny Cide in the Wood Memorial this year.

Empire Maker will be retired to stud after the Breeders' Cup. Funny Cide, unable to breed, could have several more years of racing ahead of him. Both horses were ailing last month and unable to run in the Travers at Saratoga.

The cough that knocked Empire Maker out of the Travers surfaced again last week at Belmont, where the colt missed three days of training, but he worked six furlongs Monday in 1:11 2/5.

Frankel said that if he can work Empire Maker one more time, he should make the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Funny Cide, in his first workout since before the Travers, turned in a 0:48 1/5 clocking for a half-mile Friday at Belmont.

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