Updated on 09/17/2011 10:38AM

Six to take on Funny Cide

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The cast is nearly set for Saturday's Belmont: Empire Maker and five other 3-year-olds will take on Funny Cide (above). Another rival is Dynever, trained by Christophe Clement. Barclay Tagg, Funny Cide's trainer, says he's trying to stick to his routine.

ELMONT, N.Y. - No horse has won the Triple Crown in 25 years, a streak Funny Cide will try to end in Saturday's 135th Belmont Stakes. He is the eighth horse since Affirmed to win both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, the fifth in the last eight years. None - not Pleasant Colony, Alysheba, Sunday Silence, Silver Charm, Real Quiet, Charismatic, nor War Emblem - could complete the sweep. The Herculean task awaiting Funny Cide is something his trainer, Barclay Tagg, has been reminded of repeatedly.

"I'm trying not to dwell on it," Tagg said outside his barn Monday morning at Belmont Park. "You've still got to do the same stuff you're always doing every day to get him there."

The week began quite quietly, and quite early, on Monday. On a clear, crisp morning, Funny Cide went out at 5:30 with Robin Smullen, his exercise rider and assistant trainer, and made two laps around Belmont Park's main track, jogging one lap, cantering the next.

The pace will accelerate quickly. Funny Cide was scheduled to have his final workout on Tuesday. He will have a schooling session in the paddock later in the week. The amount of media encamped adjacent to his barn will rise exponentially, as will the pressure. By Saturday, more than 100,000 people are expected to jam into Belmont Park to see if Funny Cide can join the ranks of Sir Barton, Gallant Fox, Omaha, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault, Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed, as well as earn a $5 million bonus from Visa, the Triple Crown sponsor, for sweeping the Triple Crown.

Only six other 3-year-olds are expected to challenge Funny Cide in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont. Midway Road and Outta Here, both of whom were considered possible starters, were dropped from consideration on Monday. Best Minister, Dynever, Empire Maker, Scrimshaw, Supervisor, and Ten Most Wanted are expected to be entered against Funny Cide on Wednesday morning, when post positions for the race are drawn.

Best Minister, Scrimshaw, and Ten Most Wanted all had workouts on Monday morning.

Best Minister, who has been training at Belmont Park, worked a half-mile in 47.12 seconds with exercise rider Hanne Jorgensen on a track rated wet-fast. Best Minister went off quickly, with an opening quarter-mile in 22.79 seconds, according to the official clockers. The work was faster than his trainer, Ken McPeek, expected.

"It was quick," McPeek said, but he added that Jorgensen "was just sitting on him, though. He's doing so good."

Best Minister won Pimlico's Sir Barton Stakes in his last start. He is trying to follow in the footsteps of Sarava, who last year won the Belmont for McPeek after capturing the Sir Barton.

Scrimshaw, who has been training at Churchill Downs, worked five furlongs on a fast track in 1:00.20 under exercise rider Stacy Maker. Scrimshaw was third in the Preakness last time out. He and Funny Cide are the only two horses who will run in all three Triple Crown races this year.

"I never try to put too much stock into a work, but I thought it was good," said D. Wayne Lukas, who trains Scrimshaw and has won the Belmont four times. "I was extremely pleased with the energy he showed and the way he finished up. He came home in 23 flat. He looked awfully good."

At Hollywood Park, Ten Most Wanted worked five furlongs on a fast track in 59.60 seconds. Ten Most Wanted was ninth in the Kentucky Derby after getting bumped badly at the start.

"It was a very nice work," said Wally Dollase, who trains Ten Most Wanted. "He galloped out very strong. He's been training sensationally since the Derby."

Both Scrimshaw and Ten Most Wanted were expected to arrive in New York late Tuesday. The plane transporting both was scheduled to leave from California early Tuesday with Ten Most Wanted, then stop in Kentucky to pick up Scrimshaw and several other Kentucky-based horses running in stakes here this weekend.

Midway Road, who was second in the Preakness, will bypass the Belmont and await the Ohio Derby on June 21 at Thistledown. The Preakness followed an allowance victory for him at Keeneland.

"The bottom line is he's such an improving horse and he made such a big jump there from the two-other-than [allowance] to the Preakness that maybe going the mile and a half might be a little too much right now," his trainer, Neil Howard, said from Churchill Downs. Going to the Ohio Derby, Howard said, "might be a better way to have him right for the big races in the summer," such as the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

Outta Here worked one mile on the Hollywood Park turf course in 1:43.80 on Sunday. His trainer, Bill Currin, on Monday said he had decided to "remain here with Outta Here." Currin said the next likely start for Outta Here would be the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park on July 13. Outta Here finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby in his last start.

The defection of Outta Here enabled John Velazquez to pick up the mount on the Linda Rice-trained Supervisor, who most recently finished third in the Peter Pan Stakes.

After a wet, miserable weekend, it was gorgeous at Belmont Park on Monday, with a high of 73 degrees. But the forecast for much of the week is not encouraging. The National Weather Service is predicting thunderstorms Tuesday night and into Wednesday, then a new round of thunderstorms on Saturday. The high temperatures throughout the week are forecast to be unseasonably cool, in the upper 60's.

The weather has not compromised Funny Cide's training.

"I was worried it would, but it hasn't," Tagg said. "He's been able to get through his workouts and his gallops unscathed. So far, so good. We've been pretty lucky. For something like this to happen, you've got to have everything fall into place. You need a lot of luck.

"He's gotten pretty strong," Tagg said. "We've thrown a lot at him all at once, and he's gotten stronger and stronger every day, which is what you want, though it's harder on Robin."

"He's gotten so pumped up," Smullen said. "He's bigger and more muscular. Maybe it's a mental thing, too. He's high on himself."

- additional reporting by David Grening

Belmont Stakes contenders

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

HorseJockeyTrainerLast start
Best MinisterS. SellersK. McPeek1st, Sir Barton
DyneverE. PradoC. Clement1st, L.S. Derby
Empire MakerJ. BaileyR. Frankel2nd, Ky. Derby
Funny CideJ. SantosB. Tagg1st, Preakness
ScrimshawG. StevensD.W. Lukas3rd, Preakness
SupervisorJ. VelazquezL. Rice3rd, Peter Pan
Ten Most WantedP. DayW. Dollase9th, Ky. Derby