Funny Cide was even more impressive in winning the Preakness Stakes than he was in winning the Kentucky Derby two weeks earlier. But history shows his toughest test will come in the third jewel of Thoroughbred Racing's Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes.
The New York-bred son of Distorted Humor rushed by Peace Rules on the turn at Pimlico on Sunday and was unchallenged through the stretch, winning by 9 3/4 lengths over longshot Midway Road. Scrimshaw was third.
As a result of that dominating performance and his gritty victory in the Kentucky Derby, the chestnut gelding will become the fifth horse in seven years to try for the Triple Crown and a $5 million bonus offered by Visa. Obviously, none of the other four got the job done.
Whether it is the 1 1/2-mile distance, the competition from "fresh" rivals or the wear and tear of three stressful races in a five-week period, 16 horses have lost the Triple Crown in the Belmont. The list includes such luminaries as Northern Dancer in 1964, Spectacular Bid in 1979, Alysheba in 1987 and Sunday Silence in 1989. Silver Charm, Real Quiet and Charismatic failed in 1997, 1998 and 1999. Last year, War Emblem stumbed out of the gate in the Belmont, losing any chance to reverse history.
Funny Cide's trainer, Barclay Tagg, understands all that. But he remained confident Sunday.
"As long as he handles everything like he did the last few weeks, I can't see any problem with it," Tagg said. "But you always have to wonder with a horse. Sometimes you think they're doing well and they fall apart on you. They are athletes and we put them under a lot of stress."
Tagg said he believes Funny Cide will be able to handle the longer distance of the Belmont. "But," he admitted, "adding another quarter mile to it, anything can happen."
And Tagg said he is not worried about the "new shooters" in the third leg of the Triple Crown series, expected to include Derby runner-up Empire Maker, Dynever and Atswhatimtalkinbout.
"To tell you the truth," he said, "I'm not worried about any of 'em. I think they have to beat this horse now. I don't think he has to beat them."
D. Wayne Lukas, who trains Scrimshaw, said he was impressed with Funny Cide's race. "Fifty years from now, we may be having movies made about Funny Cide," he said, referring to the upcoming motion picture based on the life of Seabiscuit.
And trainer Bob Baffert, who finished fifth with Senor Swinger, said he will be a spectator for the Belmont. "I'm getting off the trail at this bus stop and rooting for Funny Cide to win the Triple Crown," Baffert said.
In other racing on the weekend card at Old Hilltop:
Dr. Brendler provided the biggest upset of the day in the $200,000 Citgo Dixie, run over a turf course rated soft after Friday's deluge. After tracking the pace set by Del Mar Show and Perfect Soul, Dr. Brendler rallied in the lane to get home first by 1/2 length over Perfect Soul. Sardaukar was along to take third. The 1 1/8 mile went in 1:57.78 and Dr. Brendler returned a generous $39.40 for a $2 win ticket. "I had no clue the pace was so slow," said winning jockey Ramon Dominguez. "But when I asked the horse to run at the half and when we started circling, I was pretty sure we could get there." Winning trainer H. Graham Motion said Dr. Brendler "loves the soft ground and cool weather." He said he has nominated him to a Churchill Downs stakes event in two weeks' time.
Windsor Castle, with Santos up, got the lead at the top of the lane in the $100,000 William Donald Shaefer Handicap and galloped home a 1 3/4-length winner over Changeintheweather. Tempest Fugit was third. Windsor Castle finished in 1:50.08 and Santos said he used the race as a test for the Preakness. "I know where the best part of the track is now. We want to try for the double," he said, one race before making good on it.
Pioneer Boy opened up a big lead with a furlong to go in the $100,000 Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap, then held off Sassy Hound in the late going to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Tasty Caberneigh and Highway Prospector, co-owned with Pioneer Boy by Michael Gill, dead-heated for third and fourth. Pioneer Boy, a 5-year-old, Texas-bred son of Pioneering, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.35 for Jeremy Rose. "We didn't break real fast," said Rose. "I thought I hustled him too much but then he relaxed and I felt more confident. I liked the way it ended."
Mt. Carson angled out into the stretch run in the $100,000 Hirsch Jacobs Stakes for 3-year-olds and won off by 2 1/4 lengths over Gators N Bears, with Only the Best finishing third. Mt. Carson, a Kentucky-bred son of Lord Carson, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.85.
Gang raced last in the $100,000 Woodlawn Stakes for 3-year-olds until the top of the lane, then circled all four of his rivals and was just up at the wire to beat Sigint by a nose. Breanna's Smile, who set the pace, faded to finish third. Gang, a Kentucky-bred son of Will's Way, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:45.05.
Mineshaft picked up his third straight victory, winning the $600,000 Pimlico Special by 3 3/4 lengths over Western Pride. Judge's Case was third in the 1 3/16-mile event, clocked in 1:56.16 on a sloppy track. Trainer Neil Howard said Mineshaft has become a more consistent horse this year and winning rider Robby Albarado said the son of A.P. Indy now should be ranked among the nation's top handicap horses and an early favorite for the Breeders' Cup Classic in October at Santa Anita.
Roar Emotion pulled off a mild upset in the $200,000 Black-Eyed Susan for 3-year-old fillies. The daughter of Roar roared off at a 5-length lead entering the stretch run and then held on to beat Fircroft by 1/2 length. Santa Catarina was third as the favorite, with Ivanavinalot fourth. Roar Emotion, with John Velazquez up, ran 9 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:52.33.
Mandy's Gold wore down Summer Colony in deep stretch to win the $150,000 Pimlico Breeders' Cup Distaff by a neck. Stormy Frolic was third. Mandy's Gold, a 5-year-old daughter of Gilded Time, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:46.32.
And in the $75,000 Very One Stakes for fillies and mares, Forest Heiress justified her favorite's role, taking command in the stretch and winning off by 7 lengths. Maria's Mirage was second and New Years Eve Gala was third. The 5 furlongs took 57.72 seconds.
In other weekend racing:
With only a month to go until the Queen's Plate, Saturday's $150,000 Marine Stakes at 1 1/16 mile was viewed as a key test among contenders for North America's oldest continuously run stakes event. And when Wando, a chestnut son of Langfuhr, cruised to an easy, 4 1/2-length victory, his connections were encouraged about their chances. "He's just a monster that's just getting better with every start," said winning rider Todd Kabel. "He was very relaxed even though he was going fast. Good horses run like that." Wando was clocked in 1:42.61, 4/5 of a second off the stakes record time held by Victor Cooley, who used this race in 1996 as a springboard to Queen's Plate victory. "You have to be happy with this race," said trainer Mike Keogh, who viewed the Marine as a test of Wando's distance capabilities. "I was impressed with him and it even looked like he was loafing a little bit at the end so Todd gave him a whack just to keep his mind on business." El Ruller was second and Arco's Gold was third.
Sunday, Forever Grand split three rivals in mid-stretch and drew off to win the $125,000 New Providence Stakes by 2 lengths over Krz Ruckus. The favorite, Mulligan the Great, was third and Devastating completed the order of finish. Forever Grand finished the 6-furlong event for Ontario-breds in 1:10.96.
Wild Spirit, a Chilean-bred filly from Bobby Frankel's barn, drew clear in the stretch run to upset Saturday's $200,000 Shuvee Handicap by 3 1/2 lengths over Smok'n Frolic. Another Frankel trainee, You, led early but faded to finish a well-beaten third as the favorite. Wild Spirit, with Javier Castellano up, ran the 1 mile on a fast track in 1:34.51. Frankel assistant Jose Cuevas said their Chilean connections "actually told us she was better than Lido Palace. We didn't believe it. We said she had to prove it in America first." But, he added, "I thought there was a chance we could run 1-2 in here....Maybe You came back too quickly. She still ran a big race."
Golden Damsel romped home a 9 3/4-length winner in Sunday's $100,000 Bouwerie Stakes for state-bred 3-year-old fillies. With Jerry Bailey aboard, the Gold Token filly finished the 7 furlongs in 1:22.81. The Name Was Gone finished second and Travelator was third as the favorite. "It was a no-brainer," said Bailey.
Golden Marlin got out to an early lead in Saturday's $100,000 Dogwood Stakes, turned back a series of challenges and went on to win by 1 length over Double Scoop. Throne rallied from last in the field of 7 3-year-old fillies to take third. Golden Marlin, with Shane Sellers in the irons, covered the 1 1/16 mile on a sloppy track in 1:45.96. Golden Marlin is a Kentucky-bred daughter of Marlin, trained by Greg Foley.
Makeup Artist came four-wide around the turn in Saturday's $100,000 Senorita Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, caught the leaders with a furlong to go and eased clear to win by 1 1/2 lengths over Rutters Renegade Shapes and Shadows, who led briefly at the top of he stretch, held on for third. Victor Espinoza rode Makeup Artist, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Dynaformer, in 1:36.54 for a mile of firm turf.
Sunday, Alpenfest wore down the early leaders in the stretch run to win the restricted $75,000 Willard L. Proctor Memorial for 2-year-olds by 1 length over Double Belvidere. Genuine Count was third. Alpenfest is a California-bred colt by Hennessy.
Wish It Were came five-wide into the stretch run in Saturday's $75,000 Sweet and Sassy Handicap and worked clear to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Skip the Print. Balmy was third and the favorite, Haunted Lass, faded to finish last of six fillies and mares after contesting the pace. Wish It Were, a 4-year-old daughter of Is It True, ran 6 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:12.79. "The race really set up well for us because there was a lot of speed," said winning rider Abdiel Toribio.
Private Horde rallied from a pace-stalking position as the field turned for home in Saturday's $75,000 I.C. Light Waterford Park Handicap, survived some contact in the stretch and drew off to a 2-length victory. Frankie R's Winner was second and Crossing Point was third. Private Horde, a 4-year-old Brunswick colt, ran 6 furlongs on a muddy track in 1:09.12.
El Dorado Shooter, the odds-on favorite, broke sluggishly in Sunday's $60,000 Saratoga Handicap but quickly found the front and went on to win by a comfortable 6 lengths over Radar Contact, with My Captain a nose farther back in third. El Dorado Shooter, a 6-year-old son of Man From El Dorado, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.41. He does get to staggering the last sixteenth," said winning rider Russell Baze. "He was getting tired but he was still responding to the whip so I kept after him." Trainer Cliff Delima said El Dorado Shooter will run next in the June 7 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Take Me Up was last to set sail in Saturday's $60,000 John Wayne Stakes for state-bred colts and geldings, then closed with a rush in the stretch to win by 2 lengths over odds-on favorite Cowboy Stuff. Canaverous was third. Take Me Up ran 6 furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.09.
Lone Star Park
Costalota, a 6-year-old daughter of Dixieland Heat, showed she still has championship form with a hard-fought, neck victory over Halo Tyra in Saturday's $50,000 JEH Stallion Station Stakes. Defending her title in the race and as last year's Texas champion older female, Costalota was overlooked in the wagering, going off at 7-1. "This old mare tries every time you bring her to the paddock," said winning trainer Randy Mayfield. Costalaot ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.48 and Mayfield said she will move along to the $100,000 Allen Bogan Memorial on June 28.
Orangeberry went quickly to the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Tomboy Stakes for Ohio-bred 3-year-old fillies and drew clear to win by 9 1/2 lengths over Heavenly Jet. Lead the Parade was third. Orangeberry, a daughter of Cryptoclearance, finished the 1 1/16 mile on a sloppy track in 1:46.
Pittsburgh Star, a California-bred 6-year-old, led all the way to a 5 1/4-length victory in Sunday's $50,000 Hasta La Vista Handicap. The 6-year-old Pirate's Bounty gelding was challenged about 1 1/2 miles through the 15-furlong marathon but drew off quickly again and finished in 3:11.34. Paladin Power was second and Rainbow Style was third.
Shandy tracked the leaders in Sunday's $40,000 Hi Oak Silver Handicap before surging to the lead in the stretch and drawing off to win by 2 lengths over My Beau Mister. Wiggins wa third. With Carlos "Hi Ho" Silver up, Shandy ran the 7-furlong race for Illinois-breds in 1:24.42.
J.P. Jet let defending champion Crocrock set all the pace in Saturday's 10,000 Lakes Stakes, then came charging down the stretch to win by a nose. Ashar rallied to take third in the initial stakes event on the Minnesota track's schedule.
Sunday, Fancy Injun emerged from a five-horse stretch charge to win the $35,000 Lady Slipper Stakes for fillies and mares by a nose over Lakeville. Demiparfait was third.
Turban tracked the pace in Sunday's $35,000 Fox Sports Net Handicap, let Sabertooth grab the lead early in the stretch run, then rallied and drew off to win by 3 1/2 lengths. Sabertooth held second and Alfurune was third. The favorite, Makors Mark, finished seventh and last. Turban, a 4-year-old son of Lord Avie, ran 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.