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Thursday, June 17
Has lost six of eight since winning 2003 Preakness

BOSTON - Can it really be just a year since Funny Cide took on the Triple Crown and became the biggest name in racing?

The New York-bred gelding has already been eclipsed as the sport's feel-good story by Smarty Jones, who made a similar run at this year's Triple Crown before also losing in the Belmont Stakes. What's more, Funny Cide has lost six of eight races since winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

"It's not like he's some kind of a pig," trainer Barclay Tagg is quick to note, pointing out that Funny Cide finished in the money in six of those races.

"I like to win. The only good thing they've got here is winning," Tagg said this week as he prepared his horse for Saturday's Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs. "The thing about this game is, you lose more than you win."

New England's biggest horse race, the MassCap was first run in 1935 and has included such luminaries as Seabiscuit, War Admiral, John Henry and Cigar. It was canceled last year for financial reasons, but it's back with another big draw for 2004.

Funny Cide, who earned almost $2 million as a 3-year-old, was installed as the 8-5 favorite in his bid to double his 2004 earnings of $275,000.

The field also includes 2002 MassCap runner-up and second choice Evening Attire, at 2-1. Sarava, the '02 Belmont winner, gives the MassCap a Triple Crown field of sorts.

"This is the kind of race that we'd want to win, and fortunately Funny Cide is the kind of horse that allows us to do it," owner Jack Knowlton said.

"The MassCap is a race with a lot of history. It's attractive, since horses like Skip Away and Cigar have won in the past. To have our name added to that list would be great."

Last year, Funny Cide nearly added his name to a more illustrious list.

With the movie "Seabiscuit" calling attention to thoroughbred racing, Funny Cide overcame humble beginnings -- and as a gelding, a humble future -- to reach the peak of popularity. But on a rain-soaked track at Belmont Park, where a home-state crowd chanted his name, he finished third and failed to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

Since then, Funny Cide has four third-place finishes, two wins and a ninth-place showing in the 10-horse Breeders' Cup Classic. When he returned to Belmont for the Met Mile last month, Funny Cide was a disappointing fifth.

Meanwhile, Smarty Jones has been crowned the darling of the circuit as he, too, missed out on a more coveted crown. And few understood his predicament better than the Funny Cide camp.

"I have a lot of sympathy for the whole Smarty Jones team," Knowlton said. "They're really good folks. I think they did everything right for their horse, and unfortunately the racing gods were not with them that day."

The field, with odds, from the rail out is Offlee Wild (15-1), The Lady's Groom (8-1), Basil's Rhythm (30-1), Gygistar (5-1), Sarava (12-1), One the Game (20-1), Funny Cide, Evening Attire, Rogue Agent (10-1).

"You've got to respect Evening Attire. If he runs a good one, he's one of the better horses in the country," Gygistar jockey Joe Bravo said.

"But I'm not going up there for the weather. My horse is a big, strong animal and I really like him."

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