Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide is given a bath by assistant trainer Robin Smullen after the Haskell.

Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide is given a bath by assistant trainer Robin Smullen after the Haskell.

Associated Press

Saratoga Notebook: Funny Cide Improves; Romans Rolls; Numbers Up and Down

By Phil Janack
Still unsure of the cause, trainer Barclay Tagg said Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide was on the improve after spiking a fever of 102 Monday morning.

Tagg said Tuesday that the Sackatoga Stable gelding appeared to be bouncing back from the temperature that may have helped explain his dull finish in the $1 million Haskell (gr. I) on Sunday.

Funny Cide also kept one eye closed Monday, leading his handlers to believe he may have been hit with a clod of dirt during the race.

"His temperature was close to normal today, he seems much brighter and his eye is open," Tagg said. "So far, the signs are positive."

Tagg had blood drawn on Funny Cide Tuesday morning, but was still awaiting the results, which may help determine the reason for the temperature, one possible explanation for the horse's worst career effort.

"You look for everything to be as close to normal as possible," Tagg said. "The white count is the main thing. It shows you if you've got an infection in there or not.

"I don't know what it was, whether it was the track, whether it was the heat, whether he was coming down with something. I don't know."

Tagg said one of the key factors at this point is making sure Funny Cide doesn't have any setbacks. He remains on antibiotics.

"You can always have a relapse," he said. "Right now he's on medication. You know how when you're a kid it makes you feel good, so you go out and play and get sicker. I don't want to stay on it longer than I have to because antibiotics are hard on the blood. We'll just have to guess one of these days and see where we are."

Tagg reiterated that plans to bring Funny Cide back in the Aug. 23 Travers (gr.I) remain very much on hold.

"I'm not going to be pressured into running in anything now," he said. "(In) The Triple Crown I had my own pressure and everything else. As long as he wasn't limping, I had to run him. I'm going to take care of the horse now."

Romans on a Roll
Coming off a record-setting meet that landed him his first solo Churchill Downs training title, Dale Romans had high expectations heading into Saratoga.

It took a while, but Romans is starting to roll.

Romans is tied for third in the standings with four wins through the first two full weeks, far behind runaway leader Todd Pletcher's 15. All four of those wins have come in the last three days.

"All the horses have been running good, they've just been running second and third," Romans said Tuesday. He also has three seconds and five thirds in 22 starts.

"I don't know if we'll win one every day like we have been, but we're going to win some more races. We've got some good horses. You just never know what you're going to get in with up here."

Romans was especially pleased with the Sunday effort of filly Caught In A Pinch, who ran six furlongs in 1:11 to win by 2 1/2 lengths in her career debut under jockey Jerry Bailey. Romans is tentatively thinking about the Spinaway (gr. I) on Aug. 29.

"She's my best 2-year-old filly right now. I thought she would run well," he said. "We may leave her here for the Spinaway, depending on how it comes up. She's trained well and done everything right, but you never know until they run.

"She's shown us enough in the morning that she might be a special type of horse, and Jerry really liked her. He said she could compete with anything, so we may try her in the big race. He knows what he's talking about."

Blushing Indian, a solid second to the Pletcher-trained Chapel Royal in the Sanford (gr. II) July 24, won't run back at the meet. Romans is looking next at the mile and a sixteenth Cradle Stakes Sept. 1 at River Downs.

"He's doing good. I think we'll go ahead and try him around two turns down there," he said. "It's probably the first opportunity for 2-year-olds to go around two turns. I was real pleased with the way he ran last time. There's no reason to try and hook monsters like Pletcher has over there right now."

Spa Ups and Downs
Attendance figures were on the rise and handle figures on the decline for the second straight week, but the New York Racing Association is anticipating a strong second half.

On-track attendance through 12 full days was at 342,777, an average of 28,564, up 3.7 percent from 2002. On-track handle dipped 4.8 percent from the nearly $36.3 million of last year to $34.5 million. Total handle, including all outlets, dropped 5.8 percent to $174,556,853.

"It doesn't really alarm me because, first of all, we don't get too wrapped up in the numbers this early anyway," NYRA senior vice president Bill Nader said. "If people are looking purely at the numbers, the second half of the season we're going to come running. We'll make our move then."

Nader said NYRA is already looking at another drop in handle for week three, which begins Wednesday. Last year, the third week was the best of the meet, the only week with six full days of fast and firm conditions. On-track handle averaged $3,423,532 per day.

Through two weeks last year, 34 of 41 grass races remained on the turf, Nader said. This year, only 30 grass races had been carded in 12 days, and 11 have come off.

"It shows you how much the weather has impacted the racing program," he said. "Week three we're going to take another minor hit, but weeks four, five and six, with any break in the weather at all, we'll really put up some strong numbers and rally back."

Around the Spa
Jockey Jerry Bailey finished the second full week of racing with 24 wins in 72 mounts, leading the standings in both victories and win percentage (33 percent). John Velazquez was second with 19, and defending champ Edgar Prado third with 14... Trainer Todd Pletcher is the runaway leader in both starts (48) and wins (15) among trainers, nine more than runner-up Bobby Frankel and just four shy of his entire total last summer, when he won his second Saratoga title. He is on pace for 45 through six weeks and 30 through four weeks. The record is 24 set by Syl Veitch in 1954, when the meet was only 24 days. "There's a long way to go in the meet and we have a lot of starters left," Pletcher said. "I think we'll run enough numbers that we'll have a chance."