Updated on 09/17/2011 10:40AM

Bailey's game plan vs. Funny Cide


ELMONT, N.Y. - Jerry Bailey readily admits he paid little attention to Funny Cide when he was aboard Empire Maker in the April 12 Wood Memorial.

Obviously, things have drastically changed in the last two months. And while the eyes of the racing world will be on Funny Cide in Saturday's 135th Belmont Stakes, no pair will be more focused on the chestnut gelding than those of Bailey, who once again will be aboard Empire Maker.

Empire Maker and Funny Cide have split decisions in two meetings. Empire Maker beat Funny Cide by a half-length in the Wood. Funny Cide beat Empire Maker by 1 3/4 lengths in the Kentucky Derby.

"I didn't really pay that much attention to him in the Wood. All I did was try and leave a target for my horse and one of them happened to be Funny Cide," Bailey said. "I thought I could have beat him four or five lengths. It's interesting that he beat me in the Derby because I really thought I had a better horse than he did."

Heading into the Belmont, Bailey still believes he has the better horse.

"I do," Bailey said. "But I will say with a caveat, in any sport when an athlete - and I consider Funny Cide an athlete - is in great form, they can run better than their talent level suggests that they could. Funny Cide is in good form and Empire Maker will have to bring his 'A' game if he's going to beat him."

Bailey doesn't believe Empire Maker was on top of his game in the Derby due to a bruised foot he suffered the Tuesday of Derby week. The injury forced Empire Maker to be trained lightly in the days leading up to the race. In the Derby, Bailey said Empire Maker had to work harder than he did in the Wood and Florida Derby to reach contention, taking the fight out of him for the stretch.

"I was having to really encourage him so I knew at that point he was expending a lot of energy versus his Florida Derby and Wood win, in which he cruised up there like it was nothing," Bailey said. "So, it didn't shock me he didn't get by knowing that the previous half-mile he worked so hard to get up to him."

Empire Maker has had an uninterrupted work schedule leading up to the Belmont, though trainer Bobby Frankel moved one of his works to the turf to avoid working on a sloppy track.

"Bobby's been able to train him as he's wished, which wasn't the case Derby week, so yeah, he will be better prepared for this race than the Derby," Bailey said.

The trick for Bailey in the Belmont is to make sure he and Empire Maker are within striking distance of Funny Cide and Jose Santos while not going so fast that his horse has no punch for the stretch.

"I've got to be close enough to him where he doesn't get away with an easy pace and get away from me at any point, yet if I chase him too quick we both die," Bailey said. "A lot will depend on how fast they're going or how slow they're going and how well I read it."

In his early handicapping of the race, Bailey felt that Empire Maker could be on the lead in the Belmont. But after Funny Cide blitzed five furlongs in 57.82 seconds in his Tuesday workout, Bailey has reconsidered how the race may be run.

"I did envision possibly being on the lead if Scrimshaw didn't break real well and Jose was intent on taking back," Bailey said. "It might be very difficult for [Santos] to get this horse back coming off a quick work like that and seeing he's kind of a speed horse anyway."

For Empire Maker, the Belmont is a very important race in regards to his reputation. Highly touted before the Kentucky Derby, Empire Maker could end up without a classic victory.

"It's very simple," Bailey said. "It's put up or shut up."