Funny Cide (foaled April 20, 2000) is a Thoroughbred race horse who won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2003. He is the first New York-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby and the first gelding to win it since 1929 (when Clyde Van Dusen took home the roses).
Bred at Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm in Versailles, Kentucky, he was foaled at the McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbred Farm, owned by Joe and Anne McMahon in the upstate New York town of Saratoga Springs. By Distorted Humor (a Mr. Prospector line sire), he is out of the winning, but short-lived, Belle's Good Cide by Slewacide by Seattle Slew.
Funny Cide was a member of one of Distorted Humor's first American crops when his stud fee was $10,000. (Distorted Humor's fee for 2008 was $300,000 for a live foal.)
Funny Cide was originally purchased in August 2001 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga preferred yearling auction in Saratoga Springs for $22,000 by Tony Everard. With the average sale of a yearling running about $43,000, Everard saw the colt as a bargain, a horse he could train at his New Episode Training Center in Ocala, Florida, for a fast financial turnaround. As Everard said, "He was a little bit on the immature side but he had a good frame and a big, deep girth. He was also a ridgling (meaning one testicle had not descended), and they usually sell cheaper." "Best," said Everard, "to do this early. The undescended testicle hurts them, and they don't learn as they should."
Barclay Tagg Finds His "Big Horse"
Barclay Tagg purchased the gelding for $75,000 in a private transaction in March, 2002, for Sackatoga Stable.
Once a steeplechase jockey, Tagg, who grew up in Abington, Pennsylvania, and won his first race in 1972 at old Liberty Bell Park, was a journeyman who'd been laboring in the racing scene for over thirty years. The victory by Funny Cide made Tagg the first trainer to win the Derby in his first attempt since Cam Gambolati saddled Spend A Buck to win the 1985 Derby.
Ray Paulick of Blood-Horse said of Tagg, "He has some characteristics uncannily like hall-of-famer "Silent" Tom Smith, the trainer of Seabiscuit. He takes care of his horse, doesn't rush into anything or run him when he shouldn't. I like that about Tagg. Like Tom Smith, he's his own man and will put the horse first. I wish we had more trainers out there like him."
The chestnut gelding trained by Tagg and ridden by jockey Jose Santos made his two-year-old racing debut at Belmont Park on September 8, 2002. Running away from the New York field and under a hand drive, he easily won the six furlong race by fifteen or more lengths. Twenty-one days later, Funny Cide won his first seven furlong restricted stakes race, the 25th running of the Bertram F. Bongard Stakes, under another hand drive and by a similar margin. In the Bongard, his Beyer Speed Figure was 103. No two year old in the country had run faster.
His third winning effort as a two-year old was his first try at a mile, the restricted Sleepy Hollow Stakes, also at Belmont Park. Under a very hard hold by Santos, he was, for the first time, challenged for the lead (by Spite the Devil), but proved he could not only be rated (held back in a certain position waiting for the best time and place to make a move), but easily had enough grit to hold off such challenges. It also proved he could handle longer distances.
By October 2002, Jose Santos believed this horse would be his "Derby horse," although there was more press coverage of Empire Maker, as well as his stablemate Peace Rules, both horses trained by Robert J. Frankel.
At three, Funny Cide ran in the one and one-sixteenth mile long Grade III Holy Bull Stakes. Breaking from post position 13, he hit the gate, then raced wide for the entire trip. He came in 5th in a field of strong horses, including Offlee Wild. In the Grade II Louisiana Derby, he faced Peace Rules, Kafwain, and Badge of Silver. Staying close to the pace, he rallied in the stretch, dropped back, and then came again along the rail. Finishing third after Peace Rules, he was bumped up to second upon the disqualification of Kafwain. But it was his strong second place showing against Empire Maker (ridden by Jerry Bailey) in the one and one eighth mile Grade I Wood Memorial on April 12 that clinched his entry into the Kentucky Derby. Funny Cide lost the Wood by a short neck and was pressing Empire Maker at the wire, even after New York Hero early on bore out very wide, taking the gelding with him and losing him his early momentum. Funny Cide earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 110 for the Wood.
2003 Kentucky Derby
Coming into the Derby after a second in the Wood, Funny Cide, the New-York bred longshot gelding won the 2003 Kentucky Derby running between the strong double entry of Frankel's Empire Maker (again with Jerry Bailey in the saddle) and Peace Rules ridden by Edgar Prado but neither of them could catch him. He won the Derby by 1 3/4 lengths over the favorite Empire Maker, paying $27.60 for every 1 dollar bet to win, in front of a crowd of 148,530.
2:01.19, Funny Cide's time, is the 10th fastest time in the history of the Kentucky Derby.
2003 Preakness Stakes
Blood-Horse magazine's Steven Haskin wrote: "Pimlico stakes coordinator David Rollinson had to go out and recruit Preakness Stakes horses when it looked like only six or seven were going to run. All was calm that first week after the Derby. Then, Empire Maker was officially declared out, leaving only six confirmed starters. Then Midway Road came in. Then all hell broke loose when the Miami Herald's bogus story and photo of Santos cheating in the Derby appeared. Empire Maker suddenly jumped back in, his Triple Crown hopes alive once again. Hours later, when the inferno began to subside, he was back out. Then Peace Rules officially came in. Sometime, in between all that, Champali scratched after colicking. Then Kissin Saint and Alysweep came in. Then Indian Express came out. Then Rollinson popped a couple of Advil and braced for week two." Week two was like week one, now also including the in and outs and ins of New York Hero, Ten Cents A Shine, Foufa's Warrior, and During. As Haskin goes on to say, "All this confusion could have been avoided if all involved had known how Funny Cide was going to run in the Preakness."
Vanned in at the last moment by Tagg and stabled in Mary Eppler's barn on the backside of the track to keep him calm and out from under the press, this time Funny Cide was the bettors' favorite. On a cold wet day in May, he burst from post position 9 (only Layminister in 1910 and Canonero II in 1971 won from 9), the runaway winner of the 2003 Preakness Stakes at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course. His time was 1:55:61 and he took the race by 9 3/4 lengths, the second largest margin in Preakness history.
In the Preakness, with its sharp turns and hard, fast track, Funny Cide earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 114. He was only the third New York bred to win the Preakness. The other two were Margrave in 1896,, when the Preakness was run at Gravesend Race Track on Coney Island in New York, and Jacobus in 1883.
2003 Belmont Stakes
It rained all day before the Belmont Stakes, the most grueling of the three races and a quarter mile longer than the Kentucky Derby. New Yorkers came to the track in record numbers, only to see Jose Santos ride Funny too close to the rail where the slop was deepest (called a "dead rail"), as well as fighting too hard to rate him. Funny Cide finished third in the slop behind a fresh Empire Maker and Ten Most Wanted, both horses having skipped the Preakness Stakes. Frankel expressed himself a happy man to have spoiled such an exciting run by such an exciting horse. "It may be mean," he said, "but I'm glad I did it."
As a side note, Tagg got a measure of revenge later that year, when his horse, Island Fashion, won the Alabama Stakes. Her victory denied a $2 million Triple Tiara bonus to the owners of Spoken Fur, who was trained by Frankel.
Immediately after the race, Tagg said Funny Cide hadn't taken to the track. It was an odd comment, considering that Belmont was Funny Cide's home track and he trained over it almost ever day, rain or shine.
In an article published in March 2007, one read: "Looking back, Tagg wonders if Funny Cide's 9 3/4-length victory in the Preakness and his overly fast workout the week before the Belmont weren't the results of an on-edge horse who had little left for the final leg of the Triple Crown. Tag was quoted as saying, 'He didn't need to have his adrenaline popping through his head every time a bunch of people came running down the aisle way.'"
That same year, dual classic winner Funny Cide, once again up against Frankel and Empire Maker, won the Eclipse Award for 3 Year Old Male of the Year. He was only the second New York bred to ever do so, the first being Saratoga Dew, who was named Champion 3 Year Old Filly of 1992.
At four, Funny Cide flashed his old form in the Massachusetts Handicap on July 3, 2004, earning a 110 Beyer Speed Figure. The finish was a thrilling three way photo at the wire between runner-up Funny Cide, the winner Offlee Wild, and The Lady's Groom. Funny Cide beat Evening Attire in a stretch duel in the 2004 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap, and was then beaten by Evening Attire in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap. He nearly won the Grade 1 Suburban Handicap. But the highlight of his troubled four-year-old season was winning the October 2, 2004 86th running of the prestigious and grueling one and one quarter mile million-dollar Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park against the likes of the very honest campaigner Evening Attire and a very promising young colt, The Cliff's Edge. In the Gold Cup, he earned a 112 Beyer. Other than Real Quiet in 1999, for years no other horse who had won a classic in his third year had gone on to take another Grade 1 race—except Funny Cide.
Funny Cide's four year old season was fraught with respiratory problems. The race was held at the Santa Anita track the year when a major forest fire raged nearby, darkening the air around the track with hot soot. During his five-year-old season, he was plagued with back problems, not diagnosed until he'd raced out of the money in several graded races. Tagg decided to rest Funny Cide for the last half of the season.
Back on the Track
On February 2, 2006, Funny Cide came alive in a one-mile money allowance race at Gulfstream Park to beat the odds on favorite, Sun King, winner of the Pennsylvania Derby and the Tampa Bay Derby, third in the 2005 Jockey Club Gold Cup, and a surging second — by the bobbing of a nose — to Invasor in the Whitney Stakes of 2006. The stakes-winning sprinter Sir Greeley took the race in a quick 1:32.42 but Funny Cide's jockey, the top 10 New York Racing Association rider Edgar Prado said, "He broke sharp and was right with those horses from the go. He never gave up. I was very happy with his race."
On April 1, 2006, Funny Cide flashed his old form, running a gritty, game second in his second Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap at Aqueduct. "He ran a fantastic race," top jockey Richard Migliore said. "Blood and guts all the way to the wire. He's a fantastic racehorse. I wasn't looking for the lead, but my horse was keen and I didn't want to get into a fight with him. When he got alone, he idled better and when company joined him, he fought on again. It was a very game performance."
On April 30, 2006, Funny Cide broke his losing streak by taking the Kings Point Handicap at Aqueduct. Jockey Richard Migliore said, "I'm more tired from trying to pull him up. I thought I was going to have to go around again." Jon Constance of Sackets Six said, "We thought that he didn't have the heart he used to have. But it's not so. He looked around and saw that horse coming up at him — and he was gone." (He had consistently reached the high-90s in the Beyer speed figures and at one time had 11 straight races with at least a 100 Beyer figure.)
On July 1, 2006, Funny Cide led all the way to win the $200,800 one and one-quarter mile Dominion Day Stakes (G3) at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, Canada. The race attracted hundreds who had come just to see Funny Cide, crowding the walking ring when he entered the paddock and giving him an ovation at the post parade. But his definitive 1 1/2-length win over a tough field brought the whole crowd to its feet. Funny Cide broke from the inside post, controlling the Dominion, and holding off two serious challenges (first from Cryptograph who finished third, and then from Nolan's Cat, who placed) as he clicked off early fractions of :23.62 and :47.14. Funny Cide was the fifth Derby winner to race at Woodbine and the first to win there since Secretariat took the Canadian International in 1973. He was also the first Kentucky Derby winner to ever win a graded stakes race at the age of six. For the past 46 years, Funny Cide was also only one of two Kentucky Derby winners to race at all at the age of six. (The other was the 1982 winner, Gato del Sol.) Funny Cide's last race was on May 20, 2006 at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore. Funny Cide, who was born in Saratoga Springs, ran twice at the Spa. First in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap when 70,175 fans showed up, and for the second time in the Woodward Stakes on September 2, 2006.
On July 4, 2007, lured to Finger Lakes Race Track by an extra $50,000 added to the purse and ridden by Alan Garcia, Funny Cide came roaring around the far turn to take the $100,000 Wadsworth Memorial Handicap by three lengths and break his winless streak of six races. The track, which could accommodate 2,000 patrons in the clubhouse and another 4,000 in the grandstand, had an attendance of well over 12,000 people (second largest crowd since its largest of 13,000 in 1962) for Funny Cide's appearance, the first winner of a Triple Crown race to run at Finger Lakes in its 46-year history.
On Friday, July 13, 2007, Funny Cide's retirement was announced. The collective partnership of Sackatoga, trainer Barclay Tagg, and his assistant Robin Smullen decided that it was best to retire him on a high note with the victory in the Wadsworth and with the gelding still fit and sound. Jack Knowlton, managing partner for Sackatoga Stable, agreed his future career would be at the track with Tagg. Funny Cide became a stable pony in the mornings, accompanying younger horses in their training. "He'll still be doing what he's done the past five years, but he just won't be racing in the afternoon," Knowlton said.
NYRA held a "Funny Cide Retirement Party" at Saratoga Race Track on August 10, 2007.
Funny Cide is a two time "New York-bred Horse of the Year". At retirement, he had earned $3,529,412. He also claimed the highest earnings of any New York-bred racehorse in history. Saratoga Race Course has honored him with a stakes race for older New York breds, the Funny Cide Stakes.
He was commonly known as "the people's horse" and also referred to as "the pride of New York".
On December 5th, 2008, Funny Cide took up residency at the Kentucky Horse Park alongside Cigar, Da Hoss, Alysheba, and other champions. His work as Barclay Tagg's stable pony had started to give him mild discomfort.