Saratoga Springs, NY--August 11, 2007

Dear Diary,

Dont understand why but theres been some unpleasant fallout on message boards over the retirement of Funny Cide--because he will spend his immediate future as a stable pony for Barclay Tagg that fate somehow is unworthy of his status as a winner of two American classics.

While its comforting that thoroughbred racing can attract fans not solely because of its wagering aspects, sometimes the passion of fans can border on the, well, fanatical.

Consider Evening Attire, for instance. Like Funny Cide, he won the Jockey Club Gold Cup and is an equine millionaire twice over, a horse that challenged Funny Cide on five different occasions. At age nine hes still racing. Some think he should be pensioned, too, but the horse disagreed:

Been there. Done that. Hated it.

While the life of an equine pensioner seems glorious, the sun warming his shoulders, the wind at his back and with a spacious paddock to romp around in, most of the time is spent swatting flies with his tail.

Evening Attire finished third in Fridays fifth race mostly because his late run was compromised by a slow early pace. But for him it was better than lounging on the farm. He was bored and unhappy, his attitude changing for this worse. The Kelly family did the sensible thing and brought him back to the racetrack.

He happens to love Saratoga. Kellys barn is close enough to the main track that Evening Attire can hear the races as theyre run. When he does he gets really excited. Hes worse than the two-year-olds during the races, said trainer Pat Kelly. Hes just not ready for the farm yet.

Apparently its the same case with Funny Cide.

But it was interesting that Tagg was either absent or keeping an extremely low profile during Fridays retirement ceremonies. Hes not a circus animal, Tagg once said of Funny Cide. Ill be glad when all this is over.

At times, the pomp and circumstance surrounding Funny Cide has been way over the top. One can hardly blame Tagg for sometimes having an attitude about it all. But youd also think he could have danced through one more hoop for the people who paid to get in.

Tagg has been a horsemans horseman for some time. Everybody on the racetrack has acknowledged his talent for years. But to the betting public he was known as that Maryland trainer whos real good with turf horses.

Until Funny Cide came along and changed all that, and Taggs life for the better.




First Race: Didnt see this coming until it was too late, but from the clouds came River Mountain Rd to take the inscrutable first race for $20,000 claimers. Mighty Gulch raced well for the place, winning a photo from Wild Vicar, the only horse with a modicum of form going in to show up in here.

Second Race: Baby race loaded with first-timer pedigrees from top outfits. So, of course, horses with experience finished 1-2. As they were supposed to as the top two choices. The Leopard and Immortal Eyes had finished 2-3 in their rapidly run debuts. This time they eliminated the middle man. Immortal Eyes was a bullet away from the barrier, rated well by Eibar Coa while racing two paths out from the rail. Into the stretch, Johnny Velazquez tried to sneak of the fence, but Coa tightened it up, as he should have. At that point, JV tipped off the fence and confidently urged the odds-on Todd Pletcher trainee, $2.5 million two-year-old purchase, past the leader. Steve Asmussen firster Verify chased the leader but tired without apparent excuse. Newcomer Legacy Thief also chased while widest on the turn, but continued very willingly and was a good third; follow progress. But The Leopard? The way theyre preparing him, an educational debut followed by a strong late finish score, the outfit thinks they have a good one here. A real good one.

The Saratoga Sunrise: For the fifth time at the meet, Johnny Velazquez landed on the ground soon after the start of a race. It happened when Tommasi bobbled soon after the start. Showing his preference for a two-turn nine furlongs, Naughty New York also showed his class to win this overnight stakes easily, drawing away from pacesetting Building New Era late.

Fourth Race: Spurred kicked in strongly in deep stretch to take this mile inner turfer, lassoing in both second favorite Yankee Thunder and show finisher Of All Times in an otherwise uneventful show.

Fifth Race: Midnight Slammer, a juvenile state-bred colt by Officer, absolutely toyed with 10 rivals and will be looking for something a lot tougher next time. And he might be up to the task; note. Debuting Alexandros made fine rally into the lane but hung badly and could not wrest the place from either Wishful Tomcat and Alabamas Jumpin, who finished heads apart. He might benefit from addition of blinkers but might not, too. Tough call.

Sixth Race: Kent Desormeaux saved ground through the lane and that proved to be the difference. Ground Hero, a well meant returnee from the George Weaver shed, swooped into contention into the lane but could not sustain his rally. Military Major finished gamely too late but did wrest the show in the final strides.

Seventh Race: Even money favorite Equitable was rank at the gate, delaying the start, did not have the easiest of trips thereafter, angling six wide into the claim and closed determinedly, though a bit one-paced; deserves another chance, bet back. Meanwhile, Senor Enrico rallied between horses to win it in the final strides from Grand Strike, who received a ground saving gem from Rafael Bejarano and just missed.

Eighth Race: Greater Fool did everything right but win. He made the start look bad, outbreaking the field by four lengths from his extreme outside slip. He withstood pace pressure, opened a clear lead into the stretch but was nailed on the line by the late surging My Golden Opinion, who clearly benefited with the addition of blinkers. This is another in a tough series of beats for the Rick Violette shed. If you liked his colt today; bet him to make amends next out.

The Grade 1 Sword Dancer Invitational: Ran into an old friend, Bobby Ribaudo, at Gulfstream Park this winter. First time Ive been here in over 20 years. How come, I wanted to know. Ive got two turf horses I came down with. Its a long way from Gulfstream to Saratoga, and a lot of time in between, but Ribaudos patience paid off as Grand Couturier gave him the first Grade 1 win of his career. He had some issues acclimating and getting use to the American way of training, my training. It looks like hes learned. Odds on favorite English Channel came from off a fast early pace to challenge for the lead at the top of the stretch. But Calvin Borel got through a large hole on the fence and the four-year-old Grand Lodge colt burst through and won convincingly and in full stride. Good job all around.

Tenth Race: Formful finale as Sense of Speed sat off a speed duel, assumed command soon after entering the stretch, and won as clearly the best horse. Manhattan Mack was eliminated when Desormeaux fell leaving the gate. Horse and rider appeared unhurt.