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Funny Cide becomes upset Derby winner

By BY ROBERT KIECKHEFER   |   May 3, 2003 at 7:14 PM   |   Comments

LOUISVILLE, Ky., May 3 (UPI) -- Funny Cide grabbed the lead as the field turned into the long stretch run and held off strong challenges from favorite Empire Maker and Peace Rules to win Saturday's 129th running of the Kentucky Derby by 1 ¾ lengths.

Sent off at odds of 12-1, the bargain-basement colt not only beat a field of regally bred rivals but also became the first New York-bred ever to win America's most famous horse race. In addition, Funny Cide was the first gelding to win since Clyde Van Dusen did so in 1929.

With Jose Santos up, Funny Cide ran the 1 ¼ mile in a good time of 2:01.19 -- the 10th fastest Derby ever.

Funny Cide paid $27.60, $12.40 and $8.20; Empire Maker $5.80 and $4.40; and Peace Rules $6. The $2 exacta paid $97 and the $2 trifecta paid $664.80.

Funny Cide started from post position No. 6 and quickly established a stalking position as Brancusi and Peace Rules led the field into the first turn. Santos edged the colt up and challenged the leaders on the turn.

Brancusi gave it up -- he finished last -- and Funny Cide was in front and outside of Peace Rules with a quarter mile to go.

While Funny Cide was taking the lead, jockey Jerry Bailey asked Empire Maker, the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial winner, for his best run and he ranged up on Funny Cide's outside flank as they ran down the stretch. But he said at that point he knew he wasn't going to have enough horse.

"He just didn't respond with the same authority as he did in his earlier races," Bailey said.

Santos, however, said he knew at the three-eighths pole that his horse was going to win.

"He broke real clean and I had a perfect trip," he said. "I was able to get him out on the backstretch and I knew he could keep going for a mile and a quarter."

The outcome continued a long streak of struggles for Kentucky Derby favorites. Only once since 1979 has the favorite won the race, that being Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000.

Both Empire Maker and Peace Rules are trained by Bobby Frankel, who won four of the six stakes races he entered at Churchill Downs this weekend and finished second in the other two. Frankel, however, is still without a winner in any Triple Crown event.

Santos notched his first Derby victory in his seventh try. His previous best finish was fourth on Cryptoclearance in 1987. Santos also won last October's $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic aboard the longshot Volponi. Winning trainer Barclay Tagg won in his first Derby effort.

Funny Cide is a son of Distorted Humor, from the Slewacide mare Belle's Good Cide. Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner, is three generations back on his dam's side and he has both Mr. Prospector and Danzig on the stallion side of his pedigree.

He is owned by the partnership of Sackatoga Stable, managed by Jackson Knowlton, which owns three horses. He was purchased as a yearling for $22,000 and then sold to his current owners for $75,000 -- "A price we could afford," Knowlton said.

"We are the little guys in the game," he said. There are five shares in Funny Cide, most of them held by high school friends.

"It's just indescribable," Knowlton said of the unexpected Derby win.

Funny Cide came into the race off a half length loss to Empire Maker in the Wood Memorial -- a race in which many experts felt Empire Maker wasn't asked for his best. Santos said Saturday he knew better.

"Empire Maker was all out (in the Wood). The jockey (Bailey) said he didn't want to squeeze the lemon. But the lemon was pretty dry there," Santos said.

In the race before that, the Louisiana Derby, Funny Cide finished third, behind Peace Rules and Kafwain. His only previous victories were as a 2-year-old at Belmont Park, in races restricted to New York-breds.

The Derby was fairly cleanly run, although Santa Anita Derby runner-up Indian Express took the worst of some traffic trouble. With 20-year-old Derby rookie Tyler Baze in the irons, Indian Express was pinched back at the start and was caught in a tangle going into the first turn. He wound up 14th of 16 starters.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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