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Oct 17, 2003

Racing Today

By: John Piesen

Strike three! You’re in!A week back, trainer Barclay Tagg announced that Funny Cide would return to the races in the Discovery Handicap on opening day Oct. 29 at Aqueduct.Forty eight hours later, Tagg said forget the Discovery. Funny Cide will return in the Empire Classic for New York-breds on Saturday at Belmont Park. This decision surprised me because Tagg has to know that Funny Cide is only 50-50 at best to beat a super-fast Traffic Chief in the Empire Classic.Then, over the weekend, came the bombshell: Funny Cide will return to action in the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita… and that Julie Krone gets the call, replacing Jose Santos, who is committed to Volponi!I have two thoughts:--If, indeed, Funny Cide does go in the Classic, and Krone rides him, this is salvation for the Breeders’ Cup, the sponsors, and the network. Major horses, notably Empire Classic, Mineshaft and Candy Ride, have been dropping like the proverbial flies, leaving the Cup begging for a name horse.(And just what kind of media exposure would the Cup get against game six of a Yankees-Cubs or Red Sox-Cubs World Series?) But in Funny Cide, the Cup gets its hook. And, with Krone riding, what could be better than the two feel-good stories of the racing year hooking up?--Tagg desperately wants the 3-year-old title for Funny Cide. If Funny Cide should get beat by Traffic Chief (or something else) in the Empire Classic, the gelding’s chances of gaining year-end honors are kaput. He’d be dismissed as a fluke who got incredibly lucky back on the first and third Saturdays of May.But if Funny Cide gets beat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, so what? He’s supposed to get beat. He’ll be fifth or sixth choice at double-digits. And if he should hit the board, he’s 3-year-old champ (assuming Ten Most Wanted doesn’t win)…and, if by miracle, he wins the Classic..he’s not only 3-year-old champion, he’s Horse of the Year, and a guest on Leno and Letterman.It’s a question of risk and reward, and the reward far outweighs the risk. A good move by Tagg and the Sackatoga people. But I won’t believe it until Funny Cide is in the gate at Santa Anita. Counting Funny Cide, the probable field for the Breeders’ Cup Classic now stands at 11. They are:  Ten Most Wanted - Pat Day Medaglia d’Oro - Jerry Bailey Perfect Drift - Gary Stevens Congaree - Pat Valenzuela Pleasantly Perfect - Alex SolisFunny Cide - Julie Krone Hold That Tiger - Edgar Prado Volponi - Jose Santos Dynever - Corey Nakatani Evening Attire - John VelazquezFleetstreet Dancer - Tyler Baze  3-17-2 4-16-18-110-112-112-1 15-115-120-1   While Funny Cide was coming in, two good older horses – Meadowlands Cup winner Bowman’s Band, and the multiple stakes-winner Tenpins, who would have been a major pace factor, were dropping out.Conspicuous by his absence is Robby Albarado, who goes from riding the odds-on Mineshaft to watching from the jocks’ room. While the Classic has taken some major hits, so indeed has the Turf, the second richest Cup race. The first two finishers in the recent Arc – Dalakhani and Mubtaker – are not coming, and High Chaparral, the 2002 B.C. Turf winner, and third as the favorite in the Arc, is very iffy. At least, old friend Balto Star is Turf-bound, according to trainer Todd Pletcher, and Iron Mike Dickinson is threatening to bring Deeliteful Irving.Other likely runners are Storming Home, Falbrav, Sulamani, Johar, The Tin Man, Kaleteur and Paolini. The Mile is expected to attract Perfect Soul, Honor in War, Touch of the Blues and Soaring Free, the first four finishers in the recent Shadwell Mile at Keeneland, and the first four from the Oak Tree Mile at Santa Anita – Designed for Luck, Sarafan, Century City and beaten favorite Special Ring.Other Mile hopefuls are Oasis Dream, Nebraska Tornado, Six Perfections, Refuse to Bend and, drumroll please, Peace Rules.Hey, if Peace Rules wins the Mile, and Ten Most Wanted and Funny Cide get beat in the Classic, why isn’t Peace Rules the 3-year-old champ? After all, that would give the Frankel second-stringer victories in the Louisiana Derby, Blue Grass, Haskell and the Breeders’ Cup, and a second in the Travers.Speaking of Frankel, the new bridegroom may have the Filly & Mare Turf favorite in Dimitrova, a bust-out winner of the recent Flower Bowl at Belmont, and possible upsetters in Heat Haze and/or Tates Creek. Mezzo Soprano, Voodoo Dancer, Yesterday, Bright Sky, Islington and Musical Chimes are other prime candidates.There is no question that Frankel will run the Sprint favorite. That is, of course, Aldebaran, a three-time Grade One winner this year. He will have to run through and around the likes of Valid Video, Shake You Down, Posse and Gygistar.You want more Frankel? You got it. Check out the Distaff.With Azeri’s health in doubt, Frankel will run the likely favorite in Sightseek, and a possible third or fourth choice in Wild Spirit. Got Koko, Azeri’s conqueror in the Lady’s Secret, will be formidale in the Distaff, as will Take Charge Lady, Lady Tak, Elloluv and Adoration. Steve Asmussen, looking for his first Breeders’ Cup winner, will saddle Belmon Futurity winner Cuvee in the Juvenile. Cuvee inherits the favorite’s role after the defections of Ruler’s Court, Mr. Jester, Birdstone and Eurosilver.Cactus Ridge may be the one to catch and beat in the Juvenile, the field for which also will include Chapel Royal, Minister Eric, Pomeroy and Capitano.And, finally, Halfbridled, who is being touted as the second coming of Cicada, will be the shortest-priced favorite of the day in the Juvenile Fillies. The competition will include Class Above, Society Selection, Be Gentle, Everyday Angel, Hollywood Story, and Victory U.S.A.

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