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Racing gets needed kick

Jun 3, 2003 12:48 AM


Gone are the days when horse racing dominated the American sporting landscape. But when Funny Cide steps into the starting gate at Belmont Park on Saturday, hopes for a revival will ride on the chestnut gelding’s journey around the track.

The racing industry has done much to squander the country’s passion for the sport since its heyday in the first half of the 20th century. The industry limited its exposure during the dawn of the television age and was hurt by reports of rampant drug abuse of horses by trainers and vets. And, there was the Pick Six scandal.

The sport, however, has emerged with Funny Cide’s bid for the Triple Crown and the soon-to-be-released film "Seabiscuit." This is the best run of luck for horse racing in years and couldn’t have come at a better time.

It has been 30 years since Secretariat capped a Triple Crown run with a record-breaking 31-length win at the Belmont.

Since then the rise of simulcast wagering, which allows fans to bet on an array of racetracks has reduced star runners and storied races to just another gambling opportunity.

"They say in life, timing is everything," said Joe De Francis, president of the Maryland Club, which runs the Preakness Stakes. "The fact that Funny Cide is coming along at the same time of the Seabiscuit release could have a significant impact."

John Scheinman

The Washington Post