Funny Cide expected to run in Pimlico Special - if it's on

After Funny Cide delighted racing fans with his sizzling victory last weekend at Gulfstream Park, his owners unveiled the schedule for the popular New York-bred gelding. Among the races on the list was the Pimlico Special.

Funny Cide's appearance in the Grade I stakes May 14 at Pimlico Race Course could generate nearly as much excitement as the Preakness the following day. But the Special, which was canceled two years ago because of a purse shortfall, could be canceled this year for the same reason.


Lou Raffetto Jr., chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club, said track management "absolutely, unequivocally" plans to run the race. However, Wayne Wright, executive secretary of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, said the horsemen won't agree to fund it unless the General Assembly approves slot machines that would benefit purses or authorizes some other new revenue source for purses.

The Pimlico Special carried a purse last year of $600,000. Mineshaft won. If he becomes Horse of the Year as expected, then he would be the 13th winner of the Pimlico Special to earn Horse of the Year the same year. That's how big the Special is.


Still, it could fall victim to the tight noose of tough times that's strangling racing in this state.

"There's no question that cutting stakes diminishes the quality of the racing program," Wright said. "At the same time, you only have so much money to spend. Can you afford to drive a Jaguar or a Chevrolet?"

Raffetto said he's not looking for another fight with horsemen. He said he plans soon to discuss the Pimlico Special with them. He was in Florida last week seeking Triple Crown nominations and horses for Maryland's top stakes. He made it a point to visit Barclay Tagg, trainer of Funny Cide, and remind him of the Pimlico Special.

'Love' among sire leaders

Not For Love, the 14-year-old stallion who stands for $20,000 at Northview Stallion Station in Cecil County, may have developed into the country's top sire outside Kentucky.

He ranked 15th last year among North American stallions in progeny earnings - the only stallion outside Kentucky in the top 20. What's more, he ranked 11th among living stallions; four on the list above him are dead (Kris S., Saint Ballado, Unbridled and Pleasant Colony).

Not For Love offspring in 2003 earned $4,975,470. What's especially impressive is that his highest earner, Presidentialaffair, banked a relatively modest $188,140. His runners have averaged a hefty $74,663. Compare that to other Maryland stallions (Two Punch at $59,431 and the late Allen's Prospect at $55,692).

Not For Love's latest accomplishment occurred in the auction ring. His daughter, Forever Partners, sold for $410,000 last week at Keeneland. Frank Stronach bought her as a broodmare.


Owned by Skeedattle Associates (Marylanders Lou Rehak, Bob Orndorff and Willie White) and trained by Tony Dutrow, Forever Partners won three of five races before being retired with a knee injury. Tom Bowman, part owner of Northview, attended the Keeneland sale and caught the buzz about Not For Love.

"It's pretty hard to get a Kentucky native to admit there's a horse outside Kentucky who's any quality at all," Bowman said. "They were pretty lavish in their praise for him. It's pretty sobering to think that Maryland has the 11th-leading living sire in North America."

Down the stretch

After the jockeys decided not to ride Jan. 10 at Laurel Park, a decision denounced by track management, Larry Saumell, regional manager of The Jockeys' Guild, met with Raffetto and the jockeys.

They reconfirmed the existing standard for winter racing: If the track is safe and the wind chill index is above minus-10 degrees, then the jockeys will ride, or at least go out the first race and try. They rode every scheduled day last week. ...

With steel cables attached to key supports, workers driving bulldozers brought down the grandstand at Bowie about 4 p.m. Wednesday. The unused structure had become an eyesore and safety hazard. The track has been a training center since closing for racing in 1985. It opened in 1914. ...


Jerry Robb has sprinted to an early lead among Maryland trainers, winning 13 races with 45 starters through yesterday. The Laurel trainer has recorded five multiple-win days. ...

Three-year-old filly Richetta suffered a slight ligament tear in her left knee while finishing sixth Dec. 31 in the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Stakes, said Robin Graham, her Laurel trainer. The previously undefeated filly will be sidelined about two months, probably knocking her out of consideration for the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, Graham said. ...

Based on Toccet's strong second-place finish in the San Fernando Breeders' Cup last weekend at Santa Anita Park, John Scanlan, trainer of the Laurel-based colt, pronounced him "back to his old self." The Strub Stakes on Feb. 7 at Santa Anita is next, followed by either the Santa Anita Handicap or the Dubai World Cup, Scanlan said. ...

Pimlico-based Excellent Band, who finished fifth last weekend in the Spectacular Bid Stakes at Gulfstream Park, came out of the race fine but never grabbed hold of the track, said Lori Testerman, his trainer. She must decide now whether to take him back for the Hutcheson Stakes on Feb. 14 at Gulfstream or to New York a week later for the Best Turn Stakes at Aqueduct. ...

The second annual Sunshine Millions will take place Saturday at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Park. Pitting New York-breds against California-breds, the eight-race program will offer purses totaling $3.6 million.