Funny Cide Back at Belmont With a Plan; Belmont Field Expected to Grow

Edited release from NYRA
K entucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide is the fifth horse in seven years to go for the Visa Triple Crown in the $1 million Belmont Stakes June 7. He arrived at Belmont 1:15 a.m. Sunday after his 9 ¾-length triumph at Pimlico, the second-largest Preakness win in history beneath jockey Jose Santos.

"The trip back was fine," said Robin Smullen, assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg. Smullen accompanied Funny Cide on the ride back home while Tagg remained in Maryland for a horse sale. "What's pretty remarkable is that he got his [feed] tub put in at 1:45, and when I got here at five o'clock this morning, it had absolutely been polished. To me that's amazing: to ship and run and ship in the middle of the night back. You'd think he'd be exhausted, but he licked his tub-again."

Smullen had plenty of time to reflect on the van ride back up from Maryland. Her biggest concern of the week was whether or not the New York bred gelding would be able to overcome the nine post in the Preakness.

"Barclay and I both thought he'd win before the draw," Smullen said. "But then you draw the nine hole and see all the statistics that one horse out of 50 so far this year outside the eight hole had won. I never expected what he did yesterday."

Sackatoga Stable's Funny Cide, forwardly placed throughout, challenged Peace Rules on the far turn and drew away from that rival at will. Midway Road rallied to be a distant second.

"I thought it would be him and Peace Rules all the way down the lane and they'd be head-and-head, nose-and-nose and Funny Cide would head him out at the wire," Smullen said. "As soon as we went to Peace Rules on the turn, Edgar Prado started working on him and Jose was still sitting chilly, I said 'Man this looks great.' Then you start looking at everyone else to see who's finishing, but there was nobody finishing."

With his Preakness victory, Funny Cide is the second-leading earner in the history of New York breds with $1,889,385. Nine-year-old Say Florida Sandy, who has banked $2,074,409, may be relegated to second on that list soon. Should Funny Cide win the Belmont, he would receive a $5 million bonus from Visa.

Funny Cide has three weeks to prepare for the biggest race of his career. Smullen and Tagg have tentatively mapped out a plan for Funny Cide.

"We're very glad that we get to lead him over there on Belmont Day, instead of having to ship," Smullen said. "Three weeks is going to do him great because two weeks is always hard on a horse. Three weeks with no ship in between is great.

"You have to keep things quiet for the horse and the more you get in the media's spotlight, the more you have to keep things quiet because it's all about routine. If the horse keeps his routine, then that's how they do well. It's all about what's safe for the horses and what's safe for the people who work around the horses."
Smullen said that she and Tagg plan to meet with the press at 10:30 most mornings outside the barn.

Funny Cide will have three days off, then jog once around the track the wrong way for two to three days, according to Smullen. The son of Distorted Humor will not work for 10 to 11 days.

Empire Maker, Dynever, Atswhatimtalknbout Among Belmont Contenders
Belmont probables right now are Funny Cide, Kentucky Derby runner-up Empire Maker, Preakness runner-up Midway Road, Lone Star Derby winner Dynever, Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher Atswhatimtalknbout, Lone Star Derby runner-up Most Feared, Kentucky Derby seventh Outta Here, Irish allowance winner Pretence, and Ten Most Wanted, ninth in the Derby. New York Racing Association stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes said the list of Belmont probables would probably grow over the next couple of days.

Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel said that Peace Rules, fourth in the Preakness, appears fine after shipping back to New York. Peace Rules will not compete in the Belmont Stakes, but Frankel will have Derby runner-up Empire Maker fresh for the 1 ½-mile classic.

"The longer between races for me, the better it is," said Frankel, who skipped the Preakness with Empire Maker.
Empire Maker is scheduled to work Tuesday morning, according to Frankel.

"I thought Funny Cide ran very well, but I didn't think Peace Rules handled the track," Frankel said. "I saw his one bad race up at Saratoga was in the slop."

Atswhatimtalknbout, the fourth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby who skipped the Preakness in favor of the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 7, is scheduled to work at Churchill Downs on Tuesday morning. Trainer Ron Ellis kept the son of 1992 Belmont Stakes winner and Horse of the Year A. P. Indy in Louisville following the Derby.

Breaking his maiden on January 4, Ellis had to rush Atswhatimtalknbout along to get him on the Triple Crown trail. Prior to the Derby, the colt missed by a nose to Buddy Gil in the San Felipe and was defeated 3 ½ lengths in fourth by Buddy Gil in the Santa Anita Derby.

"He's been doing great," said Ellis shortly before boarding a plane from California for Kentucky. "I pressed him hard to get to the Derby. He's run six times in five months and every three to four weeks. It was a hard schedule to get to the Derby and this is the first time I'll be able to give him a little break between races."

Atswhatimtalknbout finished well in the Derby, his first start with blinkers, to miss by two lengths. He has been ridden by David Flores in all six lifetime starts.
Ellis said Atswhatimtalknbout would not ship to Belmont Park until the Tuesday or Wednesday before the race.

Meanwhile, Lone Star Derby winner Dynever galloped a 1 3/8 miles on the main track at Belmont this morning and will have a workout sometime this week, according to trainer Christophe Clement. The son of Dynaformer will compete in the Belmont Stakes.

Clement was impressed with Funny Cide's Preakness victory, and is looking forward to the Belmont Stakes.

"Barclay Tagg and Jose Santos have done a great job with Funny Cide," Clement said. "It was an awesome performance. I'm looking forward to taking him on in the Belmont Stakes."

Clement requested that for the safety of his horses, employees and the media, that members of the media wishing to interview Clement should do so at 10 a.m. on the clubhouse side of the track apron.