To snip, or not to snip?

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

BALTIMORE -- On one edge of the veterinarian\'s blade, Funny Cide suffered the cruellest cut of all.

On the other are those who believe the three-year-old gelding wouldn\'t have been the Kentucky Derby champ without the snip job.

What isn\'t in dispute is that the favourite for tomorrow\'s Preakness Stakes is worth far less now because of the simple medical procedure before his racing career began.

The bluebloods in the racing world still don\'t know what to make of an altered animal winning the Derby, something that hadn\'t happened since 1924.

Geldings are supposed to win meat and potato races, not the Run for the Roses.

The \"cut\" is a last resort to dull the incorrigibles of the shed row, making the horses easier to train and salvaging their careers.

That\'s the belief of those who spend millions trying to buy a horse to accomplish what Funny Cide has for far less.

For the big spenders, the real value of winning a Triple Crown race is not in the purse but in what comes next. Last year\'s winner, War Emblem, was syndicated for $13 million US and went from racehorse to retired stallion as quickly as the world got to know him.

That won\'t be an option for Funny Cide, which for his sport could ultimately be a good thing.

And his trainer believes if the gelding was still a colt, he might not be anywhere near the racing machine he is today.

\"My experience with racehorses is I\'m all for gelding, probably 98% of them should be gelded,\" said Barclay Tagg, whose horse is the 7-5 choice. \"I just think they focus better. They make better racehorses.

\"I don\'t think it takes any of the fire out of them.\"

Funny Cide will have to do a lot of running to match what his stud fees would be worth if he had all his tools intact. In all likelihood, he\'ll never come close, not that it was ever an issue for his owners.

When the Sackatoga Stable -- a group of working-man pals from upstate New York -- purchased Funny Cide for $75,000, the damage already had been done. Born with one testicle, Funny Cide was a ridgling and was gelded before he was even sent to the racetrack.

It helped make his price affordable for the group of 10 owners who paid between $3,500 and $15,000 depending on the percentage of their stake.

\"If you\'re buying expensive horses well naturally you don\'t want them to be a gelding because it puts you at an economic disadvantage,\" Tagg said. \"But that\'s not what we were looking for here.\"

Instead, the Sackatoga lads were looking for a horse that would do two things -- hopefully get them a return on their investment and let them have some fun in the process.

They have long since surpassed both goals and racing is starting to look like the big winner.

The sport is craving a star, a horse that can hold the public\'s interest for more than the three or four post-Triple Crown starts most make. Far too often Derby champs do not return for their four-year-old seasons and are out of sight and mind in a hurry.

In a summer where Hollywood will honour the great Seabiscuit, who got better with age, the timing is perfect for the Funny Cide story to continue.

\"This is a once-in-a-lifetime horse for people like us and if everything works out, we could be enjoying it for another four, five or six years,\" said Jack Knowlton, Sackatoga\'s managing partner.

\"To be honest, if he were a colt, right now we would be getting multi multimillion-dollar offers for him. We have the opportunity to just have an awful lot of fun with this horse.

\"And we intend to do that.\"

Good health willing, Funny Cide will help Knowlton and his pals continue to live their dream.

And if he keeps on winning, he\'ll go down as a cut above many of the champions of his generation.


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