05/31/2012 2:28PM

Triple Crown near-misses: Funny Cide, 2003

Barbara D. Livingston
Funny Cide takes a break as a stable pony. His Triple Crown shot came in 2003, when he faded to third on his home track in the Belmont.

Funny Cide could have turned Triple Crown history on its head. Here was a gelding, labeled as a New York-bred, owned by a bunch of upstate party animals and trained by a guy who could do without all the fuss. Establishment Funny Cide was not.

He was, however, a rock-solid racehorse who was at his best in the 2003 Kentucky Derby and even better in the Preakness, which he won by nearly 10 lengths. This made for great headlines, but trainer Barclay Tagg was not as thrilled, knowing that the Triple Crown is a long haul and a horse can peak too soon. If he peaks at all.

The idea of a New York-bred horse winning New York’s most famous race was enough to keep the Belmont crowd lingering in anticipation through 10 solid hours of cool spring drizzle. Then Empire Maker came along to win the race, raining on the rest of the parade, while Funny Cide faded to third.

Still, it was Funny Cide who determined his own fate, and he ended up too keen for his own good. He had pulled hard in his work before the race and pulled hard in the race itself, despite the best efforts of Jose Santos to ration his speed. Upon their return for unsaddling, it was Funny Cide who got the cheers, Empire Maker the boos.

“How can you be sad?” said Jack Knowlton, managing partner of the Funny Cide crew. “What a run. What a run. We never thought we’d be here. We weren’t supposed to be here. He still won two-thirds of the Triple Crown, and third in the Belmont Stakes is not too shabby for a New York-bred.”

Triple Crown near-misses

Spectacular Bid (1979) Pleasant Colony (1981) Alysheba (1987) Sunday Silence (1989)
Silver Charm (1997) Real Quiet (1998) Charismatic (1999) War Emblem (2002)
Funny Cide (2003) Smarty Jones (2004) Big Brown (2008)