Sunday, June 8, 2003
No popularity contest for Frankel
Trainer perfectly happy to be hated for halting Crown
By Beth Harris
The Associated Press
NEW YORK - Bobby Frankel's wish came true. Everybody hates him.
Eager to play the villain in Funny Cide's feel-good march toward Triple Crown immortality, Frankel stepped up with a smile after Empire Maker won the Belmont Stakes on a soggy Saturday.
Empire Maker won by three-quarters of a length over Ten Most Wanted, giving the trainer his first Triple Crown race victory.
Funny Cide, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, was third, disappointing 101,864 wet fans who wanted to see racing's first Triple Crown in 25 years.
"This is probably the biggest thrill in racing for me," Frankel said. "A little redemption here."
Funny Cide, a New York-bred gelding, captured America's fancy with his fun-loving, small-time owners, obscure trainer and jockey who overcame a baseless accusation that he used an illegal electrical device to prod Funny Cide to victory in the Derby.
"I thought maybe destiny wanted that horse to win," Frankel said.
Yet all week, Frankel and jockey Jerry Bailey expressed confidence in Empire Maker's ability to handle the grueling 1 1/2-mile race.
"I hope everybody hates me after the race, then I'll know I did well," he said days before the final leg of the Triple Crown.
When Bailey walked into the paddock, Frankel didn't give him any instructions.
"You ride him like you want to ride him," Frankel told him.
So Bailey did, laying third behind front-running Funny Cide.
"My intention was to let him run," he said.
Bailey was in perfect position to see Funny Cide tugging mercilessly under the hold of Jose Santos.
"My horse was very relaxed," Bailey said. "If they pull on you all the way, they've got nothing left when they turn for home."
Frankel is in the Hall of Fame, and he led the nation's trainers in earnings last year. But what he wanted was to win a Triple Crown race, something rivals Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas do routinely.
Twice before he finished second in the Belmont, including last year when Medaglia d'Oro was beaten by a half-length by 70-1 shot Sarava.
In 2000, Frankel failed when Aptitude was second in the Derby and the Belmont.
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