Funny Cide, Empire Maker Both 'Iffy' for Travers

Funny Cide, Empire Maker Both 'Iffy' for Travers
Photo: Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Barclay Tagg on Travers decision: "There are a lot of factors here."
Triple Crown race winners Funny Cide and Empire Maker remain on the "if" list for Saturday's Travers (gr. I)

If this happens, they will go to the post for the $1 million race. It that happens, they won't.

Both horses were entered in the Travers on Wednesday.

Funny Cide, the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) winner, spiked a temperature on Aug. 4, the morning after finishing third in the Haskell Invitational (gr. I). He has had an elevated white blood cell count and has worked once since the race.

At the post-position draw Wednesday, trainer Bobby Frankel said that Empire Maker, winner of the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), had been coughing during the meet and some mucus was found in his trachea this week. Frankel said the Unbridled colt owned by Juddmonte Farms did not finish his food Wednesday night.

"It doesn't look like we'll run, but it's not a definite," Frankel said Thursday morning.

"He's not coughing and his temperature is good, but he didn't eat up last night and he's acting a little quiet. I decided to not take any chances. We'll know more tomorrow."

Frankel said he would not consider running Empire Maker unless he has two consecutive good days.

"If he acts real good tomorrow, I'll wait to Saturday to make my decision," Frankel said. " If he doesn't act good tomorrow, he's out, for sure. We took a blood on him again today, so we'll see. His blood has been fine. It might be just something that's running through him."

After Funny Cide galloped Thursday morning, trainer Barclay Tagg said he had not made up his mind whether to run the horse.

"I entered him to give me a few more days because I'm going to take another blood test on him on Friday," Tagg said. "You never know how a race is going to come up. I don't have all my decisions based on any particular thing yet. If everything fell into place and everything was great on Saturday morning, maybe I'll run him. If it 's going to be really hot that day. If his blood still isn't right. If the race is still tough. There are a lot of factors there. I'm not trying to be evasive. I'm just trying to tell you how it is."

The Sackatoga Stable partnership agreed to pay the $5,000 entry fee to buy Tagg some more time. Meanwhile rumors that turned out to be true, were circulating at the track that Empire Maker was not completely healthy.

Like Frankel, Tagg is waiting and watching.

"The horse seems to be doing pretty good, but his blood hasn't changed yet and I'm not happy with the way that is," Tagg said. "I don't know the answer. I told my owners the same thing this moring, I don't know the answer."

Frankel said he was being cautious. He said if Empire Maker couldn't make the Travers, he might enter him against older horses in the Woodward (gr. I) on Sept. 6.

"I'm looking for an excuse not to run. I'm not looking for an excuse to run," Frankel said. "I want to play it safe."

So Frankel, who also entered Peace Rules in the Travers, is taking the time he has available with Empire Maker.

"I don't think he's sick sick," Frankel said. "I think there is something not right there and if I do something stupid and train him he might get sick. He's given us the signals.

"Not to degrade other trainers, but some other trainers might take a chance. But I'm not taking no chances.

"The one day he misses today will have no affect on him running, if he does run, because he's a dead-fit horse."

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