- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2003

ELMONT, N.Y. — A wet track could help Funny Cide’s Triple Crown bid.

With heavy rain predicted shortly before today’s 135th Belmont Stakes, the gelding figures to benefit from the slow going on the “Big Sandy.”

The 1-mile race is taxing enough as the longest U.S. major stakes race, and a wet track at Belmont Park will further test horses’ endurance. Funny Cide won the Preakness Stakes on a “good” track and was a game second in the Wood Memorial over “muddy” conditions at nearby Aqueduct. The gelding’s sire, Distorted Humor, also ran well in the mud.

“It doesn’t seem to bother Funny Cide in his training,” trainer Barclay Tagg said. “He did run on a couple of fairly wet tracks and handled them all right.”

Empire Maker and Ten Most Wanted are also mudders. Empire Maker beat Funny Cide in the Wood. Ten Most Wanted hasn’t raced on a wet track but trained well Thursday in the slop at Belmont and is sired by Deputy Commander, who won the 1997 Travers Stakes in the mud. Long shot Supervisor’s only career win was over “good” conditions at Calder Race Course in Florida.

Quiet, please

Trainer Barclay Tagg is worried that an expected record crowd could make the normally skittish Funny Cide too nervous before the race. Tagg kept visitors away from his barn yesterday after the colt reared while being taken to the paddock Thursday. Funny Cide seemingly “washed out” before the Kentucky Derby after becoming unnerved by cheering fans only to regroup before the post parade.

The Belmont paddock has a semicircular staircase platform for fans, creating a suffocating environment with racegoers lined 10 deep. Fans arrived yesterday with signs saying “Funny Cide for President” and “Who’s laughing now?” that presaged a raucous atmosphere today by backers cheering for the local entry.

“I hope Funny Cide’s well prepared for it,” Tagg said. “[Fans] love to see him jump and kick, and they clap harder and yell louder when he does.”

Funny Cide was upset in the paddock Thursday after returning to the barn instead of the track.

“He gets a little mad if he doesn’t run,” Tagg said. “When we started home without putting the saddle on him and letting him run, I think he got upset.”

Down the stretch

Ten Most Wanted appears to have overcome a back injury sustained in the Derby when the horse was slammed leaving the starting gate en route to a disappointing ninth-place finish. Ten Most Wanted has been walked after recent morning gallops.

“His energy level is very high, and he’s very aggressive,” assistant trainer Aimee Dollase said. “Every time he’s won a race or run real well, that’s the way he’s been.” …

Don’t look for Tagg to talk strategy with jockey Jose Santos in the paddock. The rider has final say on the track.

“Jose is a world-class jockey, so there’s not a whole lot I can tell him,” Tagg said. “If I give him strict instructions and he tries to follow them and things don’t work out, then there’s no sense of having a good rider on your horse.” …

Supervisor is the 50-1 long shot, and even trainer Linda Rice doesn’t expect to win. She’s just hoping for a piece of the $1million purse.

“If we get a nice check tomorrow, I’ll be happy,” Rice said. “Third would be great. That’s my aspiration.”

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