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Funny Cide earns his way into the big one
ELMONT, N.Y. - A year ago, confusion reigned in Camp Funny Cide when it came to plotting out a fall campaign. In one five-day span, the plan changed three times. Ultimately, Funny Cide wound up in the Breeders' Cup Classic, a race for which he was ill prepared and finished ninth.
Entering Saturday's at Belmont Park, the plan was a lot clearer for Funny Cide. Win and head to Lone Star Park for the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 30. Lose and it was Empire Classic here in October, followed by the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs in November.
Texas, here he comes.
Rallying from fourth place with five-sixteenths of a mile to go to win the Gold Cup by three-quarters of a length, Funny Cide displayed the courage that helped ignite his rags-to-riches Triple Crown run a year ago. It was only Funny Cide's third win from nine starts this year, but he suffered narrow losses in the Suburban and Massachusetts handicaps. He most likely will be the fifth betting choice in the Classic behind - in no particular order - Pleasantly Perfect, Ghostzapper, Roses in May, and Birdstone.
Robin Smullen, assistant to trainer Barclay Tagg and exercise rider of Funny Cide, said the Jockey Club Gold Cup was akin to last year's Wood Memorial. Funny Cide finished a close second to Empire Maker in the Wood before winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
"He had to prove that he was worthy of going to the Kentucky Derby," Smullen said. "Barclay said it was the same scenario - he'd have to prove that he's worthy of going to the Breeders' Cup, which he did. He likes a battle, this horse; he likes to be in the heat of things. Sometimes he fights real hard, sometimes he doesn't for whatever reason. But he certainly did the other day.''
At the point on the far turn when it appeared Funny Cide was backing up, Smullen said she turned to Tagg and said, "Something's wrong. . . . I even put the binoculars down for a minute till I saw he wasn't backing up anymore, then I picked the binoculars back up.''
Funny Cide, seemingly emboldened by the presence of The Cliff's Edge to his outside turning for home, came on again and was able to run down Newfoundland in deep stretch.
Smullen said Funny Cide emerged from the Gold Cup in good order and that he would do all of his serious training at Belmont before shipping to Texas on Oct. 27.
"Ghostzapper is the horse you have to be afraid of most because he's done some unbelievable things,'' Smullen said when asked her thoughts on the Classic. "But you can't discount Funny. He tries really hard all the time.''
Newfoundland, who finished second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, will also point to the Classic, trainer Todd Pletcher said. Newfoundland, who finished second - a nose ahead of Funny Cide - in the Suburban here in July, bounced back off poor efforts in the Whitney and Woodward.
"The horse has run well twice at a mile and a quarter this year,'' Pletcher said. "When things unfold the right way he can run some big races. If he happens to show up and run a big race on the day, he might get a piece of it.''
Trainer Pat Kelly said Evening Attire, the fourth-place finisher in the Gold Cup, would not be pointed to the Breeders' Cup, a race he has run poorly in the last two years.
Evening Attire could be pointed to the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 26. Evening Attire finished first in last year's Clark, but was disqualified and placed second.
Trainer Richard Dutrow said he could not find anything physically wrong with Love of Money, who finished sixth in the Gold Cup after setting the early pace. Dutrow said Love of Money would not point to the Breeders' Cup and it was questionable whether he would run again this year.
Speightstown, Cajun Beat remain on fast track
While we await a decision on whether winner Pico Central will be supplemented to the Breeders' Cup Sprint at a fee of $200,000, we do know that Speightstown and Cajun Beat will be there waiting for him.
Speightstown and Cajun Beat came out of their third- and fourth-place finishes in the Vosburgh in good order. Speightstown stumbled shortly after leaving the gate, and though jockey John Velazquez felt the horse might have hit himself, Pletcher said Speightstown was none the worse for wear.
Pletcher didn't have a real excuse for Speightstown. He noted that the final time of 1:09.74 "indicates to me it was kind of a dead track. Maybe he was fighting it a little bit.''
Trainer Bobby Frankel blamed himself for Cajun Beat's lackluster performance in the Vosburgh.
"I didn't have him sharp enough,'' he said.
Frankel also confirmed that Forego winner Midas Eyes would train up to the Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Kitten's Joy, Magistretti BC Turf bound
Kitten's Joy and Magistretti, the one-two finishers from Saturday's , will both head to Texas for the $2 million Breeders' Cup Turf.
Kitten's Joy came out of his race so well, trainer Dale Romans said, it was "like he never did anything.''
Kitten's Joy, 3, won for the sixth time from seven starts this year and established himself as the top turf horse in this country.
"It was pretty spectacular, I thought,'' Romans said. "I didn't know how good he was earlier this year because he'd do just enough to win. He'd get two or three lengths in front and then he'd gallop home. The race in Virginia,'' Romans said, referring to Kitten's Joy's victory in the Virginia Derby, "I knew he was one of the best because Artie Schiller was two or three [lengths] in front of him and he ran him down. Artie wasn't stopping, he just ran by him.''
Kitten's Joy was scheduled to return to Kentucky on Tuesday. Romans said both Kitten's Joy and Classic contender Roses in May would travel to Texas about two weeks before the Breeders' Cup to get acclimated.
Turf Classic runner-up Magistretti will also continue on to the Classic, trainer Patrick Biancone said. "I think the winner is an exceptional horse," Biancone said. "He won the first leg. We'll see next time.''
Kelly not keen on BC for Riskaverse
winner Riskaverse is no certainty to run in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf, trainer Pat Kelly said.
Though Riskaverse came out of her victory in good order, Kelly isn't sure that 1 3/8 miles, the distance of the Filly and Mare Turf, is ideal for Riskaverse, who has never run beyond 1 1/4 miles.
Wonder Again finished sixth as the 9-10 favorite, but was beaten only 1 1/2 lengths, and trainer Jimmy Toner believes the combination of giving five pounds to the field over a course Wonder Again "struggled with" compromised his filly. Toner said he would consult with owners Joan and John Phillips before making a decision regarding the Breeders' Cup.
- additional reporting by Jay Privman