History was set at Belmont Park Saturday but it was not Funny Cide becoming a Triple Crown winner. Instead, it was trainer Bobby Frankel winning his first Triple Crown race when his Empire Maker won the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Ten Most Wanted was second and Funny Cide third.
The New Yorkers were rooting for New York-bred Funny Cide. But a New York-bred did win the Belmont -- Frankel was born in Brooklyn.
Empire Maker ran second to Funny Cide in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), and then skipped the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), which Funny Cide won easily. Empire Maker was favored in the Derby.
Empire Maker is by Unbridled and out of the incredible producer Toussaud, by El Gran Senor. The Belmont winner was bred and is owned by Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farm.
Jose Santos sent Funny Cide right to the lead in the 1 ½ mile race run over a track made quite sloppy by persistent rains. He appeared in good shape when the half was run in :48.70, and six furlongs were timed in 1:13.51.
But, Jerry Bailey aboard Empire Maker said he could sense that Funny Cide was rank as they traveled down the backside. Empire Maker was in third at that point behind Funny Cide and Scrimshaw.
"He was so rank today. He couldn't get him to settle down," Bailey said of Santos and Funny Cide.
Bailey commenced his move on the turn for home and went by Funny Cide fairly easily. Pat Day had Ten Most Wanted in full gear at that point and they made a race out of it, closing to within three-quarters of a length at the finish.
Ten Most Wanted, like Empire Maker, ran in the Derby and then skipped the Preakness. The Deputy Commander colt, who ran ninth in Kentucky, came out of the Derby with a sore back and was returned to California where trainer Wally Dollase had him treated by a chiropractor.
Ten Most Wanted finished 4 ¼ lengths in front of Funny Cide, with 5 ¼ lengths back to Dynever. Supervisor ran fifth and Scrimshaw faded to a distant last.
The mile split was 1:38.05, the 1 ¼ miles was run in 2:02.02, and the final time was 2:28.26.
"This is my biggest thrill in racing," Frankel said after the race. "A little bit of redemption for the horse."
"I rode him like he was the best horse," Bailey said. "Empire Maker eases up when he makes the lead. You can't believe the roar from this crowd when we turned for home."
Bailey said Empire Maker was the best 3-year-old he had ever ridden.
The public had really taken to Funny Cide, a gelding owned by 10 friends calling themselves Sackatoga Stables. But it was the wealthy Arab prince that took home the Belmont trophy.
"I am very proud for all of the New Yorkers, Spanish people and New York-bred people who came out to support this horse today," Santos said. "It was great. I am so thankful for everyone's support. I am not disappointed. His best was third today. The track affected him. He didn't handle it good. Some horses run better on a track like this than others.
"I still think I have the best 3-year-old. It has been 25 years since we have seen the last Triple Crown winner. I hope we don't have to wait another 25 years. We will be back. I can't wait for Funny Cide and Empire Maker to meet again. It will be a great rematch."
Funny Cide was 3-5 early in the afternoon, and moved to 4-5 when the Belmont odds were posted. The late money was on Empire Maker. He moved from 3-1 to 5-2 to 2-1. Funny Cide drifted up one notch to even-money.
Empire Maker paid $6, $3.20, and $2.60. Ten Most Wanted returned $5.80 and $3.20, while Funny Cide paid $2.70. The exacta paid $44 and the trifecta $67.50.
Funny Cide became the 17th horse to take the Derby and Preakness and then lose the Belmont. He was bidding to become only racing's 12th Triple Crown winner, the last being Affirmed in 1978.
Funny Cide joined the following that won the Derby and Preakness but did not win the Belmont: War Emblem (2001), Charismatic (1999), Real Quiet (1998), Silver Charm (1997), Sunday Silence (1989), Alysheba (1987), Pleasant Colony (1981), Spectacular Bid (1979), Canonero II (1971), Majestic Prince (1969), Forward Pass (1968), Kauai King (1966), Northern Dancer (1964), Carry Back (1961), Tim Tam (1958), and Pensive (1944).
The attendance was 101,864 on a bad weather day, the second most in Belmont history. Last year, 103,222 attended to see Sarava pull a huge upset as War Emblem stumbled and lost his Triple Crown bid.
Frankel, known for not watching big races from the box seats, watched the Belmont on a television in the racing secretary's office. Abdullah, who rarely attends the races in the United States but did come from the Derby, watched the Belmont in England.
Frankel saddled only two other Belmont starters and both ran second -- Medaglia d'Oro last year and Aptitude in 2000.
Bailey was winning his second Belmont, having guided Hansel to victory in 1991. He has had a total of 17 Belmont mounts.
It is well known that Empire Maker missed a few days of training right before the Derby when he bruised a hoof. Frankel skipped the Preakness with him and he trained well leading up to the Belmont.
Funny Cide's trainer, Barclay Tagg, said the well-documented fast workout on Tuesday was not a factor in the outcome. He did say the sloppy track may have played a role.
"I just feel bad for all the people who came out," Tagg said. "We were beaten by a good horse. I don't know what else to say. I am being honest. It is horse racing."
Frankel said he understands New Yorkers being disappointed Funny Cide did not win the Triple Crown but, "I'm a New Yorker and this horse is named Empire, like Empire State."
Frankel said Empire Maker would point next to the Aug. 3 Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) and Aug. 24 Travers Stakes (gr. I).
"He had a great run," Santos said of Funny Cide. "To win the Triple Crown is very difficult. That is why it has been 25 years since somebody did it.
"Everyone thought Empire Maker was supposed to win the Triple Crown and he only won the Belmont," Santos continued. "We won the Derby and the Preakness."