Updated on 09/17/2011 10:42AM

Funny Cide camp proud

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After Funny Cide's failed Triple Crown bid, Barclay Tagg said he felt terrible for all of the horse's supporters.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The feelings of disappointment the connections of Funny Cide naturally felt early Saturday evening had by Sunday morning evaporated into a sense of accomplishment for what their chestnut gelding had done the last five weeks.

Funny Cide's name will not be written next to those of Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, and Thoroughbred racing's seven other Triple Crown winners. But, Funny Cide's five-length loss to Empire Maker in Saturday's Belmont Stakes does not take away the fact the New York-bred won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness beforehand.

"He was good enough to run in all three legs of the Triple Crown, and he was a good enough horse to win two-thirds of it," Robin Smullen, the exercise rider of Funny Cide and the assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg, said Sunday morning. "When you walk out on the street and you talk to somebody who doesn't know anything about racing and ask them, 'What is the Kentucky Derby?' they say, 'Isn't that the greatest horse race in the world?' Then you say, 'What is the Belmont?' And they say, 'Huh?'

"He did a real big thing winning two legs of the Triple Crown and running third in the third leg of the Triple Crown," Smullen added. "We're real proud of him."

The high-decibel roar of the 101,864 faithful at soggy Belmont Park when Funny Cide walked onto the track demonstrated many others were proud of him, also.

Funny Cide had won the Derby and the Preakness by sitting third behind two speed horses and pouncing when ready. Saturday, Funny Cide was the speed of the six-horse Belmont field, and he dragged Jose Santos through six furlongs in 1:13.51. At that point, Tagg felt confident.

"Anytime you can get six furlongs in 1:13 and change you ought to be home free," Tagg said. "But, we weren't."

Santos said he felt Funny Cide did not handle the sloppy track that well and knew the race was over when Empire Maker and Jerry Bailey came to him at the half-mile pole.

"Empire Maker got next to me with a ton of horse, and I didn't have any fight," Santos said.

Santos was one of many who believed Funny Cide would excel on a sloppy track. He had run well in the Aqueduct mud in the Wood Memorial - finishing second to Empire Maker - and had twice worked super over a sloppy Belmont track.

"I was convinced he was going to do his best performance when the track was sloppy, but I guess I was wrong," Santos said.

Speaking of workouts, Smullen dismissed the notion that Funny Cide was compromised by his five-furlong workout in 57.92 seconds the Tuesday before the Belmont. Funny Cide was a bit rank in the early stages of the Belmont.

"The workout had absolutely nothing to do with it," Smullen said. "I think the lack of settling was because he couldn't handle the track and he wasn't comfortable with it, so he wasn't going to settle. Knowing the horse as well as I do, when he isn't comfortable with something he doesn't settle."

Tagg, who received an ovation at a local restaurant Saturday night when seeking the availability of a table, said he felt worse for the fans of Funny Cide than he did for himself.

"I felt absolutely terrible for the people that have been behind me so much and behind this horse not to be able to win it," Tagg said. "All you can do is get him there. At least we got him to all three races. A lot of people didn't."

Said Smullen: "Barclay takes it upon his shoulders to please the world, so he was disappointed that he couldn't please the world. That's a big thing to take on your shoulders."

Though Santos had to console his heart-broken children, Santos himself said he was prepared for the worst.

"I've been riding for 27 years, and I've had plenty of disappointments in my life and this was not the biggest disappointment in my life," he said. "How can you be disappointed with a horse that wins the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness?"

Funny Cide will be given two weeks to recover from the Triple Crown grind before returning to the track for a summer campaign. Monday, his shoes were removed and Funny Cide was turned out in a round pen, outside Tagg's barn, in which he rolled around for several minutes.

The tentative plans call for Funny Cide to be pointed to the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park Aug. 3, and then the $1 million Travers at Saratoga Aug. 23. Written into the conditions of the Haskell is a $25,000 bonus to the owner and trainer of a classic winner that runs in the Haskell. Since Funny Cide won two classics, Tagg and the Sackatoga Stable would each receive $50,000 just for showing up.

The Travers is expected to reunite Funny Cide and Empire Maker, who is expected to prep in the $500,000 Jim Dandy Aug. 3.

"It's going to be a beautiful rematch," Santos said.