The riders of the last three Triple Crown winners offered some advice for Jose Santos, the regular rider of Funny Cide as he bids for the VISA Triple Crown on June 7. The riders, Ron Turcotte, Jean Cruget, and Steve Cauthen commented during a round-table teleconference sponsored by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association.
The third leg of the Triple Crown is the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park.
"If he can go the first quarter in :24 and change or :25, he can do it. If not, it's going to be hard for him," said Jean Cruget, rider of Seattle Slew in 1977. "It's not going to be easy, but he could do it."
"I don't think the Belmont is that difficult of a race," said Ron Turcotte, who rode Secretariat in 1973. He also won the 1972 Belmont aboard Riva Ridge. "The Triple Crown is what's hard. As for the Belmont, the major concern is to focus on riding your own horse. Don't worry about the other horses. When I rode Riva Ridge (in 1972), I told the trainer that if you see :48 and 1:12, you could go to the window.
"I think Funny Cide will win the Triple Crown. Empire Maker is a good horse, but watch out for those old jump trainers (Barclay Tagg); they usually have a trick up their sleeve. They know how to train horses to run long distances."
"In classic races, you don't go to looking around too soon," said Steve Cauthen the pilot of Affirmed, the last horse to win the Triple Crown in 1978. "Jose just needs to settle him in where he's happy. I know he's tough enough.
"The Belmont was one of the most scary and most exhilarating moments of my life. We (Affirmed and Alydar) played a cat-and-mouse game down the backside. At the three-sixteenths pole, I felt some fatigue. I knew I was going to have to call on everything."