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Party still going for Sackets 6

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SACKETS HARBOR — The Sackets Six are now in their 60s, but celebrating Funny Cide’s equine accomplishments never gets old.

The owners of Funny Cide — the first New York-bred to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness — gathered on Derby Day to again revel in the achievements of their horse in the spring of 2003. This celebration was a special one for the group of owners who comprise Sackatoga Stable — many of whom still live in Sackets Harbor — as it marked the 10-year anniversary of Funny Cide’s feat of winning the Run for the Roses.

“It just means so much to us, that it’s hard to put into words,” co-owner J.P Constance said. “We’re still emotional about it.”

Four of the Sackets Six — Constance, Mark Phillips, Peter Phillips and Harold Cring, clad in the stable’s colors of maroon and gray — were on hand Saturday at the Boathouse restaurant. After watching Orb win the 139th edition of the Kentucky Derby, Funny Cide’s faithful were treated to the annual tradition of viewing the replay of the “gutsy” gelding’s triumph in the first leg of the Triple Crown 10 years ago.

“It’s still unbelievable and it still brings chills to me to see that horse go,” Mark Phillips said.

The Sackets Six also includes managing partner Jackson Knowlton, who lives in Saratoga Springs, and partner Larry Reinhardt, who still resides in Sackets Harbor.

The Boathouse was packed with Funny Cide fans and the establishment’s walls were decorated with memorabilia of the horse’s historic run a decade ago.

“This is where the original hometown Funny Cide crowd gathered,” said Constance, who passed out Funny Cide buttons.

Funny Cide wasn’t Sackatoga Stable’s first horse, but the group’s fortunes changed when its Bail Money was claimed for $62,500 at Gulfstream Park in Florida, allowing the consortium to buy the then colt, which was purchased by trainer Barclay Tagg in 2002.

Each Sackets Six member ponied up $5,000 to buy the New York-bred, not knowing what history was going to unfold in the coming months.

“I think 10 years ago we really didn’t have any idea what we were really in for,” Peter Phillips said. “I had never been to a Kentucky Derby and I don’t think the rest of them had been to a Kentucky Derby. We were just in awe of everything that did happen and of course, being able to win the Kentucky Derby was awesome.”

Then at 60-1 odds and ridden by Jose Santos, Funny Cide rallied down the stretch to win the Kentucky Derby.

“It totally changed our lives,” said Constance, “in that forevermore we have that huge chunk of pride that will never go away.”

“That was a hell of a trip,” Cring said, “one that was more hectic than I think any of us could have envisioned.”

Funny Cide fever swept the nation as the gelding went on to win the Preakness in Baltimore in runaway fashion by 9 3/4 lengths, the second largest margin in the race’s history.

“After we won the Preakness, we were doing interviews three or times a night four nights a week, doing phone interviews and I actually talked to some people across the pond,” said Cring, referring to European media.

The Funny Cide entourage rolled into New York for the Belmont Stakes, with the colorful owners arriving in a school bus.

The gelding’s bid for a Triple Crown came up short in a third-place finish to winner and rival Empire Maker on a muddy track, yet it didn’t detract from his accomplishments as he was later honored as the nation’s Horse of the Year.

“Unfortunately, we all felt bad for all our supporters that we just didn’t do it at the Belmont,” Cring said. “But I’ve said a 100 times — if we ever thought we were going to be in one Triple Crown race and came in third, we would be the happiest guys in the world. But instead, we won two and came in third in another one — that’s pretty amazing.”

There are plans in the works for Funny Cide, who currently resides in retirement in the Kentucky Horse Park in Louisville, Ky., to return to Saratoga Race Course — where a race for New York breds is named after him — this summer for a promotional weekend.

Most of the Sackets Six are retired and five of them still live in town within shouting distance.

“What could be better than getting together like this?” Mark Phillips said. “Ten years ago if you would have said we would be sitting here after winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness — we would have said ‘there’s absolutely no way that is going to happen.’ We were happy just to have a horse in the race like the Kentucky Derby, let alone win the race.”

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