Updated on 09/17/2011 11:43AM

Letters to the Editor


Pedal to metal was way to go on Funny Cide

Call it sour grapes or second-guessing, just because I lost a sizable amount on Funny Cide, but I've read a lot of drivel about that race since then, and I have a different way of viewing what happened in the Belmont Stakes.

I have seen about 50 runnings of the Belmont, but it has been years since I've seen any horse win wire to wire. I would speculate that most of the horses who had front-running victories didn't accomplish their feats because their jockeys carefully rated their horses through slow fractions.

The winning trainers probably instructed their jockeys to let their horses use their aggressive speed to full advantage and open up on their fields, thus forcing their opponents to play catch-up.

When Funny Cide had a sizzling workout four days before the Belmont, he was trying to tell his connections something, but apparently none of them paid any attention to his body language. I believe he was trying to tell them that he shouldn't be restrained in the Belmont, that the jockey shouldn't wrestle with him by setting slow fractions and trying to rate him, that he wanted to explode on the field and force his main opponent, Empire Maker, to go faster than he wanted to just to stay within sight of him.

Had jockey Jose Santos not fought Funny Cide and let his horse roll, it's possible that the outcome wouldn't have been different, but we'll never know if a more aggressive strategy wouldn't have worked for the favorite, his connections, and his supporters. Instead, Funny Cide was a rank horse and a very tired one by the end of the race.

Both Santos and trainer Barclay Tagg know their horse a lot better than the rest of us, but did it ever occur to them that using more of Funny Cide's natural speed early in the race might have been the key to success? I know, he did rate in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but perhaps before and during those races he acted differently in his training and manner.

Bobby Frankel, Empire Maker's trainer, must have been smiling (all the way to the bank) when he saw how easily Santos was allowing Empire Maker to stay close to him.

The next time someone decides to try to win the Belmont Stakes wire to wire, I hope that he will reflect more than a bit about the way front-runners like Bold Forbes and Conquistador Cielo accomplished it.

Joel Flegler
Tenafly, N.J.

One jockey played right into other's hand

I have been watching horse races for over 50 years and do know which end goes to the feed tub. To read that Barclay Tagg, trainer of Funny Cide, was satisfied with the way his horse was ridden for the first three-quarters of a mile of the Belmont Stakes amazed me ("Empire Maker rejects Triple Crown bid," June 11).

To fight a horse the way Jose Santos did is disaster, and Jerry Bailey, on Empire Maker, knew it. Had Santos allowed his horse to run on and open up, it would have forced Bailey to ride his own horse and not have the luxury of sitting chilly.

Funny Cide died under wraps, a major mistake by a lot of jocks and trainers. Funny Cide had proven that he had heart, and that his speed was genuine. He, in my opinion, would not have caved if and when hooked by Empire Maker.

A good job by Bailey was aided by a less-than-stellar performance by Santos.

Joe Messina
Tulsa, Okla.

Upstart winners are vital for holding fans' hearts

In their June 11 columns, both Andrew Beyer ("Funny Cide: Gifted but not great") and Mike Watchmaker ("Only the deserving win crown") seemed inexplicably relieved that Funny Cide was foiled in his near-miraculous and brave attempt to join the ranks of famed Triple Crown winners. They acted like the foundation of this wonderful sport would collapse under the weight of a pretender wearing that elusive crown.

In a sport that has been so hungry for a new hero and was on the verge of one's emergence from an "everyday" background, what scared them so much? Was baseball destroyed when the 1969 Mets won the World Series? Was the NFL destroyed when the New York Jets won Super Bowl III?

Unbelievable results in sports are what keep fans watching and rooting for their favorite teams as hope springs eternal in all of us. A few bucks won on Empire Maker will be lost a thousand times over to what a victory by Funny Cide would have done for the sport.

Jack Plant
Las Vegas

Belmont loss doesn't lessen gelding's heroic side

Andrew Beyer wrote in his June 11 column, "Funny Cide: Gifted but not great" that Funny Cide "had not conclusively proved himself before the Belmont" and "he dominated in an unusually weak field in the Preakness." Sometimes I wonder what planet this guy is on.

Does Beyer consider winning the Kentucky Derby any kind of accomplishment? Sure, Funny Cide got a great trip in the Derby, but I don't care what anyone says, Empire Maker had every chance in the world to go by him in the stretch, and he was never going to do it - he was life and death to beat Peace Rules for second. I can't honestly believe a day or two of missed training because of his bruised foot was responsible for that.

In fact, Empire Maker was the horse who until the Belmont had never proven himself. The only good horse he ever beat was Funny Cide, who had a troubled trip in the Wood. Talk about an over-hyped horse - I know one guy who got 5-2 on Empire Maker to win the Triple Crown and thought he was stealing from his race book.

Funny Cide is the working-class hero who earns every accolade he receives. That's why fans love him. In fact, the Preakness was anything but a weak race - Funny Cide ran a tremendous number. The stress of the Derby and Preakness simply took their toll on Funny Cide, and he wasn't able to offer anywhere near his best effort in the Belmont.

I have seen a lot of great horses lose the Belmont, and I'll put Funny Cide in that category right now.

But let's have no excuses on either side. The great ones show their true colors in the summer and fall. On to the Travers.

Marc Bonagura
Green Brook, N.J.

Manhattan blackout a dark day for NBC

Here's a little constructive criticism for NBC on behalf of all the people who were watching and betting the Belmont card from home: How about showing the second-most important race of the day? They must have been kidding. NBC had 90 minutes of coverage, but it couldn't find 2 1/2 minutes to show the Manhattan Handicap.

It was an absolute outrage for the people who watch horse racing and people who bet the race. The network really dropped the ball big-time.

The public could have done without the Jose Santos's life story, or what's-her-name with the strategy in the jockeys' room, or some other lame feature that ran. It wasn't some $18,000 claiming race we are talking about, it was a Grade 1 turf race. NBC is usually on the ball, but it screwed up royally here.

As an avid horse racing fan and handicapper, I have never been so outraged in my life. Not even a replay or a list of the payouts. Great job. I suppose I should just be happy NBC didn't go to a commercial when the horses were entering the stretch of the Belmont Stakes.

Matt Hefter
Staten Island, N.Y.