Updated on 09/17/2011 11:32AM

Funny Cide looking fine

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Funny Cide (above) will likely face Empire Maker and Dynever in the Belmont Stakes June 7, when he attempts to become the 12th Triple Crown winner.

First came an upset victory in the Kentucky Derby, and the baseless post-race insinuation that Funny Cide's jockey, Jose Santos, had ridden with an illegal electrical device. Then came an overpowering victory in Saturday's Preakness Stakes. Now, Funny Cide takes his tour to Belmont Park, where on June 7 he will attempt to become the 12th Triple Crown winner, and first since Affirmed in 1978, when he heads what is shaping up as an outstanding field in the 135th Belmont Stakes.

Funny Cide left Pimlico Race Course exactly three hours after he crossed the wire in the Preakness and headed back late Saturday night to Belmont Park, where he is based with trainer Barclay Tagg. He arrived at 1:15 Sunday morning, but the race and schedule appeared to have taken little out of him, according to Robin Smullen, who is Funny Cide's assistant trainer and exercise rider.

"Yesterday I took him out to graze," Smullen said Monday morning at Belmont Park. "He was rearing up and striking at me in the afternoon. I couldn't believe it,"

Funny Cide will have to save some of that energy for the Belmont, which at 1 1/2 miles is the longest of the Triple Crown races. It will be his third race in five weeks, and he will be meeting several worthy rivals - such as Atswhatimtalknbout, Dynever, Empire Maker, and Ten Most Wanted - who bypassed the Preakness to point for the Belmont.

Other possibilities for the Belmont are Midway Road, Most Feared, Outta Here, Scrimshaw, and Ten Cents a Shine. A runner or two could also emerge from Saturday's Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park, which is expected to include Alysweep, Christine's Outlaw, and Spite the Devil.

But Funny Cide has several points in his favor. He is returning to Belmont Park, where he won all three of his starts last year to begin his career. He is clearly thriving at the opportune time. His 9 3/4-length victory in the Preakness is officially the second-biggest margin in that race's 128 runnings. However, the record of 10 lengths was recorded in the first Preakness, in 1873, when winning margins were estimates made by placing judges or chart callers for newspapers, not precise measurements using photo finishes. In addition, that Preakness was run at 1 1/2 miles. So, Funny Cide's winning margin is the biggest since the Preakness was run at 1 3/16 miles beginning in 1925.

Funny Cide got a Beyer Speed Figure of 114 in the Preakness. That is the best figure run by a 3-year-old this year in a race farther than seven furlongs.

Funny Cide is scheduled to return to the track for a jog on Wednesday, but Smullen on Monday said she might take Funny Cide to the track on Tuesday, just to let him stand, if he continues to act as fresh as he has since the race. She said Funny Cide would have two works between the Preakness and Belmont, most likely on May 27 and June 3. That schedule would be identical to Funny Cide's preparation in the three weeks between the Wood Memorial and the Derby.

"You'd like to have four or five weeks, but he's a big, stout horse and seems to be handling everything well," Tagg said Sunday in a conference call. "You always have to wonder about a horse. Sometimes they're doing really well and they fall apart. They are athletes, and we put them under a lot of stress. Every day I'm glad that I didn't do more than three races before the Kentucky Derby, so I left some leeway there. I was going to put four races in him before the Derby, but I'm glad I didn't. Hopefully the plan will work. It's worked so far."

Funny Cide is the 27th horse who has won at least the first two legs of the Triple Crown, and the ninth since Affirmed. The eight previous horses since 1978 - Spectacular Bid, Pleasant Colony, Alysheba, Sunday Silence, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Charismatic, and, last year, War Emblem - all lost the Belmont. Of those eight, only Spectacular Bid and Pleasant Colony had previously raced at Belmont Park. All 11 Triple Crown winners had raced at Belmont Park at least once before the Belmont.

"I have no clue how he'll run a mile and half. I have a feeling he'll handle it rather easily," Tagg said. "Everybody has been such naysayers on this horse being a true distance horse that I've always been a little guarded in my opinion. So far he's proved it, but adding another quarter of a mile is a big difference."

Funny Cide was sired by Distorted Humor, a son of Forty Niner and grandson of Mr. Prospector. Funny Cide's female family traces to Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner, and Little Current, who won the Preakness and Belmont in 1974.

Two of the colts scheduled to challenge Funny Cide in the Belmont, Atswhatimtalknbout and Empire Maker, were scheduled for workouts on Tuesday. Atswhatimtalknbout, who was fourth in the Derby, is training at Churchill Downs.

"He's doing really well," Ron Ellis, the trainer of Atswhatimtalknbout, said Monday from Kentucky. "He's getting stronger and stronger by the day." A.P. Indy, the sire of Atswhatimtalknbout, won the Belmont in 1992.

Empire Maker, who finished second as the favorite in the Derby, has been training at Belmont Park since leaving Churchill Downs. He has split two meetings with Funny Cide, having beaten the Derby winner in the Wood Memorial.

"It'll be a great race if everybody shows up, and I want everybody to show up," said Empire Maker's trainer, Bobby Frankel. "I just want to see who's better. If he's better than me, I'll take my hat off to him."

Frankel believes that bypassing the Preakness gives Empire Maker an advantage in the Belmont.

Frankel said Funny Cide "has had two hard races. I think I have an edge on him."

Dynever, who has won the Aventura Stakes at Gulfstream Park and the Lone Star Derby in his last two starts, is scheduled for a work at the end of the week at Belmont Park.

"I was a lot more confident before the Preakness than after," Christophe Clement, the trainer of Dynever, said Monday. "I will take him on. I will try my best. We'll see what happens."

Ten Most Wanted, the Illinois Derby winner, who ran poorly as the second choice in the Derby, has been treated by an equine chiropractor since that race and is "doing great," his trainer, Wally Dollase, said Monday from Hollywood Park, where Ten Most Wanted has been training since the Derby.

"I feel the Belmont is a good distance for this horse, and he's been tearing the barn down," Dollase said.

Ronny Werner, the trainer of Lone Star Derby runner-up Most Feared, said he was "leaning toward giving him a shot in the Belmont."

Neil Howard, the trainer of Preakness runner-up Midway Road, said it was possible his horse would run, but he said the June 21 Ohio Derby at Thistledown was also possible. "We'll wait a few days and see," Howard said.

Bill Currin, who trains and co-owns Outta Here, the seventh-place finisher in the Derby, also said the Belmont is possible. "Right now, I'm kind of straddling," he said.

- additional reporting by David Grening

Belmont Stakes contenders

The following horses are being considered for the 135th Belmont Stakes June 7:

HorseJockeyTrainerLast start
AtswhatimtalknboutD. FloresR. Ellis4th, Ky. Derby
DyneverE. PradoC. Clement1st, L.S. Derby
Empire MakerJ. BaileyR. Frankel2nd, Ky. Derby
Funny CideJ. SantosB. Tagg1st, Preakness
Most FearedS. SellersR. Werner2nd, L.S. Derby
ScrimshawG. StevensD.W. Lukas3rd, Preakness
Ten Most WantedP. DayW. Dollase9th, Ky. Derby

Possible: Alysweep, Christine's Outlaw, Midway Road, Outta Here, Ten Cents a Shine