Frankel seeks to spoil Triple run
By ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun
ELMONT, N.Y. -- There will be two types of people glued to Funny Cide's Triple Crown bid tomorrow. First are the touchy-feely types who want to see Phar Lap, My Friend Flicka and Seabiscuit wrapped into one shiny, happy story at the Belmont Stakes.
Then you have the dark side, who couldn't care a lick about history -- hard-core gamblers in pursuit of cold, hard cash.
It is the latter group that trainer Bobby Frankel intends to appease in the 1 1/2-mile Test of the Champion.
Five weeks ago, many in the racing world were convinced this would finally be the year of a Triple Crown winner for the first time since Affirmed in 1978.
It wasn't expected to be an inexpensive, New York-bred gelding by the name of Funny Cide, however.
Instead, it was supposed to be Frankel's blue-blooded star, Empire Maker.
Depending on which explanation you choose to swallow, Empire Maker either wasn't fit enough, was bothered by a sore hoof, had a terrible ride from Jerry Bailey or didn't like the Churchill Downs track.
EXCUSES FOR LOSERS
Yes, excuses are for losers and, tail between his legs, Frankel took his colt off the Triple Crown trail for the Preakness.
Frankel blames himself for the Derby runner-up effort, claiming he should have had his charge more cranked up. He felt at the time that he had to preserve his horse for all three races of the Crown series.
Still, the Brooklyn native won't back down in his assertion that Empire Maker is the one to beat tomorrow.
And he won't make apologies should he spoil Funny Cide's coronation party in front of an expected Belmont Park crowd of 120,000 and millions more watching on TV.
"I only care about a Triple Crown if my horse is going for it," Frankel said yesterday. "I hope to be the villain, I want people to hate me after this race. It means I did my job."
Frankel is so confident of Empire Maker that he is convinced if it weren't for the starry sentimentalists so hungry to see a hero, his horse would be the post-time favourite.
"I think real horse players, they're not going to bet on Funny Cide," Frankel said.
"The general public who has never been to the races, they will make Funny Cide the favourite. The real gamblers won't be betting on him."
If those big players are betting on Empire Maker, they best hope jockey Jerry Bailey delivers a more savvy ride than he did in Kentucky.
Unquestionably one of the best in the game, Bailey occasionally suffers from brain flatulence in the biggest races.
It happened in the Derby when he rode Empire Maker like he was Secretariat, going wide the entire race. It was reminiscent of the trip he gave favoured Cigar in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Woodbine.
In both of those losing efforts, Bailey cost his mounts several lengths and a shot at winning the big prize.
Bailey isn't backing down now, however. After all, he has a horse who won the Florida Derby, the Wood Memorial and was the solid favourite for the Run for the Roses.
"I expect to win," Bailey said. "It's very simple. It's put up or shut up, not only for Empire Maker, but for Jerry Bailey."
When asked hypothetically if he would switch places with Funny Cide's jockey, Jose Santos, Bailey got ornery.
"Of course not," Bailey said. "I believe my horse is the best horse."
So does Frankel, who has yet to win a Derby, Preakness or Belmont in his star-studded career. But as the leading trainer in the U.S. the past couple of years, that's bound to end soon, quite possibly tomorrow.
With that in mind Frankel, who was second in last year's Belmont with Medaglia D'Oro, has additional motivation tomorrow -- he wants to be the next trainer of a Triple Crown winner.
"I still got a chance if I can win (tomorrow)," Frankel said. "You won't hear me apologize if I win it."