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Updated on 09/17/2011 11:31AM
Funny Cide, Peace Rules in new roles
BALTIMORE - When Funny Cide and Peace Rules first met in March in the Louisiana Derby, the focus was elsewhere, on Badge of Silver and Kafwain. When they met again two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby, the center of attention was Empire Maker.
In Saturday's 128th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, however, the spotlight will focus with glaring intensity on Funny Cide and Peace Rules, who have emerged thus far as the best and most durable of this year's crop of 3-year-olds.
Badge of Silver never made it to the Triple Crown. Neither did Kafwain. Empire Maker is sitting this one out, awaiting the June 7 Belmont Stakes. So the second leg of the Triple Crown finds Funny Cide and Peace Rules meeting for the third time, after having split their first two meetings.
In the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds, Peace Rules won at 9-1, beating 6-1 Funny Cide by 3 1/4 lengths. In the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Funny Cide, at 12-1, beat 6-1 shot Peace Rules by 1 3/4 lengths.
This time, however, they will be the top two choices in the race. Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form national handicapper, has made Funny Cide the 7-5 favorite, with Peace Rules next at 9-5. Eight other 3-year-olds are entered in the Preakness, including a betting entry of Scrimshaw and Senor Swinger, both of whom are owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis.
The Preakness will be run one week after a Miami Herald story and accompanying photo insinuated that Jose Santos, the jockey on Funny Cide, may have had something other than the whip in his right hand at the finish of the Derby. The story was quickly discredited and Santos cleared by Kentucky racing officials on Monday. But the incident has made Funny Cide and Santos sentimental choices, in addition to the likely wagering favorite.
"I felt sorry for Jose and his family," said Barclay Tagg, the trainer of Funny Cide. "He's a world-class rider and a world-class person. It's a sad situation that shouldn't have happened at all."
Said Santos: "Now we just have to focus on Baltimore and do the best we can."
The Preakness, at 1 3/16 miles, is the shortest of the Triple Crown races. And it also may have the smallest field in this year's Triple Crown. Only four horses are running back in the Preakness after having competed in the Derby two weeks ago. There are six newcomers to the Triple Crown, including Kissin Saint and New York Hero. Their trainers, Lisa Lewis and Jennifer Pedersen, respectively, are seeking to become the first women trainers to win a Triple Crown race.
The Preakness has a gross purse of $1 million, with $650,000 going to the winner. The race will be shown live on NBC in a 90-minute telecast beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern. Post time for the Preakness is 6:12 p.m. It is the 12th race on a 13-race card at Pimlico that begins at 10:30 a.m.
There is the very real chance that the Preakness will be run on an off track. A significant storm, bringing as much as one inch of rain, was forecast to hit this area on Friday, according to the National Weather Service. Saturday's forecast is for a cloudy day, with showers, and a high temperature of just 64 degrees.
Funny Cide has raced well on an off track. He was second, beaten just a half-length by Empire Maker, in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct April 12. Peace Rules was fifth when racing on a muddy track in a Saratoga maiden race Aug. 24.
Peace Rules will start from post 7 and Funny Cide from post 9 in the 10-horse field. Tagg was hoping for a better post, but was relieved Funny Cide did not end up in the far outside post 10.
"The post position isn't one that I would have picked, but that's horse racing," Tagg said. "I like to have a horse on the outside of this horse. He's a little more competitive that way."
Since both Funny Cide and Peace Rules have sharp early speed, Funny Cide might have a tactical advantage, being drawn outside his rival. But Tagg discounted that popular handicapping theory.
"I don't know if there's any difference between being outside him or inside him," Tagg said of Peace Rules. "Peace Rules is a nice horse, and he'll be a formidable opponent."
Funny Cide, who trains at Belmont Park, is not scheduled to arrive at Pimlico until early Saturday morning. He cantered once around the Belmont Park main track on Thursday morning with Robin Smullen, his exercise rider and Tagg's assistant trainer. Funny Cide later schooled in the Belmont Park paddock with the horses in Thursday's first race.
Kissin Saint, New York Hero, and Peace Rules all traveled by van from New York on Thursday. Cherokee's Boy, who trains at Bowie, and Foufa's Warrior, who is at Laurel, are scheduled to be sent by van to Pimlico on Saturday morning.
The entry of Scrimshaw and Senor Swinger most likely will be the third choice in the wagering. Scrimshaw, the Coolmore Lexington Stakes winner, was 11th of 16 in the Derby. Senor Swinger, who finished nearly nine lengths behind Funny Cide in the Wood Memorial, won the Crown Royal American Turf in his first start on grass on May 2 at Churchill Downs.
Senor Swinger wore front leg wraps for the first time in the Crown Royal. Baffert said he did not know if the colt would wear them again in the Preakness.
"He wore them last time because he burned his heels at Aqueduct," Baffert said Thursday morning at Pimlico.
Cherokee's Boy won the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico on April 19. He is 3 for 3 at this track. Foufa's Warrior was third in the Crown Royal and third in the Illinois Derby in his last two starts. Kissin Saint was third in the Wood Memorial but won three straight before that.
Ten Cents a Shine, like Scrimshaw trained by five-time Preakness winner D. Wayne Lukas, was eighth in the Derby. Midway Road was an allowance winner at Keeneland last time out. New York Hero, winner of the Lane's End Stakes, was fifth in the Withers and fourth in the Wood Memorial in his last two starts.
- additional reporting by David Grening and Matt Hegarty