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Douglaston resident can relate to Triple Crown hopes

Eric Dattner knows how Michael Iavarone and the other owners of Big Brown feel as their horse attempts to make history Saturday in the 140th running of the Belmont Stakes.

That’s because five years ago, he was in their shoes, hoping the horse he had ownership in — Funny Cide — could capture the elusive Triple Crown.

“It was a very exciting time, the three weeks between the Preakness and Belmont was just a whirlwind of parties and meetings and book offers and movie offers,” Dattner said. “Some of the guys went on the ‘Today Show.’ It was our 15 minutes of fame.”

Dattner, a Douglaston resident, was a partial owner of Funny Cide, which, for six weeks in 2003 captured the hearts of the country. A crowd of 101,867 cheered on the New York bred at the Belmont Stakes, but the chestnut gelding finished a distant third, behind Empire Maker and Ten Most Wanted on the muddy track.

It was the admiration of the crowd, especially from native New Yorkers, that was Dattner’s fondest memory of that day.

“Strangers, people we never will again see, came up to us and wished us luck,” Dattner said. “We walked back from the paddock and we got such an applause it really touched me. We weren’t out running the race, we’re just the owners. But these people were really behind us.”

Dattner, who owns four horses at Belmont Park now, still reminisces about that magical time.

“Sure I think back to what might have been,” he said. “If we would have had a more patient ride in the Preakness, for instance. We didn’t need to win the Preakness by nine lengths. (Jockey Jose Santos) could have saved the horse a little bit and won by three lengths.”

Dattner is often at Belmont. And when there, he visits Funny Cide.

“Barclay (Tagg) rides him back and forth to the track,” Dattner said of the trainer. “I see him every time I visit the barns. He’s well cared for.”

As for the Belmont Stakes, Dattner has no plans on going there Saturday— he’ll just watch the race on television like he usually does.

And he also won’t be rooting for Big Brown.

“His connections,” he said, “have been far too arrogant for my tastes.”

Reach Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at dbutler@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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