Early arrivals at Belmont Park used umbrellas to protect themselves from rain.

Early arrivals at Belmont Park used umbrellas to protect themselves from rain.

Mike Corrado

Looks Like Rain For Funny Cide's Run at History

The first order of business in New York on Belmont Stakes (gr. I) Day -- complain about the weather. The first raindrops began falling at 9 a.m., only about nine hours before forecasters predicted. Well, nothing new.

Before Friday's absolutely beautiful weather, it had rained 28 of the past 30 days in New York. New Yorkers said Friday, when it was bright, sunny, and 85 degrees, was the nicest weather day so far in 2003. That will not be the case on Saturday.

When Saturday dawned in New York, the sun was hidden by a sheet of clouds and the temperature was in the low '60s. Now, the weathermen are calling for rain all day, heavy at times.

The Belmont post time is 6:38 p.m.

Despite the weather, the souvenir stands were bristling with activity. A worker said every customer asks the same question, "What do you have with Funny Cide on it?"

Make no mistake about it, the New Yorkers were steadily streaming in to Belmont Park to root for the New York-bred horse. They were buying buttons, hats and pins with Funny Cide on them.

Funny Cide, winner of the May 3 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and May 17 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) is bidding today to become racing's 12th Triple Crown winner. The last horse to sweep all three races was Affirmed, who beat Alydar in the trio of races 25 years ago.

Funny Cide has run on an off track twice, running second to Empire Maker in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) over a muddy track, and winning the Preakness by a whopping 9 ¾ lengths over a Pimlico strip labeled good.

Add in the fact Funny Cide is stabled and thus regularly trains at Belmont, and it becomes obvious if he loses, it will not be because of the track condition. The Distorted Humor gelding is trained by Barclay Tagg, and ridden by New York-based Jose Santos.

The owners of Funny Cide, the 10 partners of Sackatoga Stable, were to load on four school buses from the JFK Hilton at 10 a.m. and begin making their historic voyage to Belmont Park. There are well over 100 persons in the entourage.

The story has been told often of how the group arrived at Churchill Downs for the Derby on a school bus because it was cheaper than a luxury coach.

One very historic figure in racing was on hand at Funny Cide's barn the morning of the race--Ron Turcotte, who rode Secretariat to his Triple Crown wins in 1973.

Turcotte discussed Funny Cide's workout on Tuesday, when the gelding went fiv e furlongs in :57 4/5. Many have questioned the speed of the work. He said some horses need workouts like that. Secretariat, he said, used to work extremely fast.

"He would come out of those workouts wanting to run even more," he said.

Turcotte predicted after the Derby that Funny Cide would win the Triple Crown.

"He looked like a horse that could handle any kind of racetrack."