One of the side benefits of Funny Cide's popular victories in last year's Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes was the prospect of a long racing career for the gelding.
Lacking breeding potential, the theory went, the crowd-pleasing steed could provide several years of enjoyment for racing fans, building excitement off his near-miss in the Triple Crown.
And that expectation has been borne out -- most recently Saturday, when Funny Cide helped draw a big crowd to Suffolk Downs for the 65th running of the Massachusetts Handicap.
What no one considered is that Funny Cide could continue to generate excitement without winning much of anything.
Saturday, it was Offlee Wild who ranged up outside Funny Cide in the final furlong and got home first, a head in front. The Lady's Groom, who set a measured early pace, held on well along the rail to finish third, just another head back.
Offlee Wild, a 4-year-old son of Wild Again from the Seattle Slew mare Alvear, ran the 9 furlongs in 1:49.14 with Edgar Prado calling the shots. He now has won both starts since shifting from trainer T.V. Smith to the barn of Dick Dutrow.
For Funny Cide, who went off as the nearly even-money favorite, it was the seventh loss in nine starts since his romping victory in the 2003 Preakness. Except for a disastrous effort in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic, the gelding hasn't run badly. He just hasn't run well enough to win.
Nonetheless, the fans turned out to see him.
"Wherever he goes, he's a favorite," said owner Jack Knowlton.
In other potential preps for the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic, Powered by Dodge this October at Lone Star Park:
--Boomzeeboom has shown promise early in his career but broke through Saturday by winning the $100,000 Affirmed Handicap for 3-year-olds at Hollywood Park. Sent to the lead by Victor Espinoza when he showed eagerness to run, Boomzeeboom was headed by stablemate Twice as Bad at the furlong marker, but came back to win by 1/2 length. Wimplestiltskin was third and the favorite, Cheiron, was fourth. Boomzeeboom, a Florida-bred son of Explosive Red, got the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.11. Vladimir Cerin, who trains the 1-2 finsihers, said both will go on to the $400,000 Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes at 9 furlongs on July 10. Cerin said Boomzeeboom's effort "was a little gutsier because he was actually passed by Twice as Bad, who I really think is a top horse. But he was passed and he fought back."
In other weekend races with potential implications for the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships:
$2 million John Deere Turf
--The just-concluded Royal Ascot meeting in England turned up some potential challengers for this event, usually a target for the Euro contingent. Godolphin Racing's Papineau went 2 1/2 miles to win the Gold Cup. But Racing Manager Simon Crisford said the plan is to turn back on distance with the 4-year-old son of Singspiel. Crisford said he may enter Papineau in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes July 24. "We always felt we were taking a big risk in running here and feel he is more of a 1 1/2-mile horse," Crisford said. "He's in lots of races over that trip, including the Arc." In Thursday's Prince of Wales Stakes, Rakti scored a 2-length victory over Powerscourt. Ikhtyuar was third with the favorite, Sulamani, fourth. Trainer Michael Jarvis said the 5-year-old will aim for the British Horseracing Board's 1 million-pound Summer Triple Crown bonus.
--At San Siro race course in Milan, Italy, Senex shipped in from Germany to upset Sunday's Gran Premio di Milano. Senex, who had only one previous win, was reserved toward the back of the field and did not get to the lead until the furlkong pole. He finished 2 1/2 lengths to the good of Maktub, with The Great Gatsby third. Trainer Hans Blume said Senex may try the Canadian International at Woodbine Oct. 24, rather than the Breeders' Cup.
--He's 8 years old, started his career at Arapahoe Park and counts only 16 victories from 64 starts, but after winning Saturday's $200,000 Dallas Turf Cup and joining the ranks of racing's millionaires, why not consider Maysville Slew for "the big one?" "I just let the horse set his own pace," winning jockey Cliff Berry said of the come-from-behind win. "He'd run 64 times so he knew what to do. When he's right, he runs and that's what he did today." Star Over the Bay was a neck back in second and A to the Z finished third. The odds-on favorite, Warleigh, was fourth. Maysville Slew, a Kentucky-bred son of Slew City Slew, ran the 9 furlongs on firm turf in 1:49.89. "This old horse means so much to me and my family for what he's done for us through the years and he's just a very good buddy," said winning owner/trainer C.R. Trout. Trout said the gelding will get a rest now and, "We haven't looked at anything past today."
--And, speaking of horses with "Slew" in their name, Slew Valley outfinished Shoal Water to win Saturday's $300,000 (Canadian) King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap at Woodbine by a neck. Surging River was third and the favorite, 2003 Canadian Horse of the Year Wando, got home fourth. Slew Valley, winner of the May 30 Connaught Cup, finished in 1:48.42 under Jim McAleney. "He's a big, tough horse," said winning trainer Reade Baker. "I think he'll be a better horse later on." Added McAleney, "He's just got guts and class. He's a good horse, period. I think he's going to be effective at any distance and the further we go, he's going to be more effective." Slew Valley is a 7-year-old, Kentucky-bred son of Valley Crossing, out of the Slewpy mare Slewway.
$1.5 million NetJets Mile (turf)
-- Six Perfections, winner of last fall's Mile at Santa Anita, never fired in this year's Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, finishing sixth as the favorite. It was Godolphin's Refuse to Bend, winner of last year's 2,000 Guineas, who got the job done, reversing some poor form. "Horses lose their form and you have to be patient with them," said Sheikh Mohammed, master of Godolphin. "He has been pleasing us lately."
-- Trainer Mark Johnson has Breeders' Cup aspirations for Attraction, winner of Friday's Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot, now undefeated in eight starts. The filly also has won the 1,000 Guineas and the Irish 1,000 Guineas. "I would love to have a crack at the Breeders' Cup Mile in Dallas in October," he said. "Success on the international stage would really ice the cake." However, Attraction would need to be supplemented to the Breeders' Cup event.
-- Frisky Spider, a refugee from the Triple Crown prep trail, was restored to winning ways on the green course in Saturday's $60,000 Restoration Stakes for 3-year-olds at Monmouth Park. The Maryland-bred Frisk Me Now colt angled in to the lead on the first turn, set a brisk pace while opening a daylight lead and then held on well to win by 3/4 length over Nooligan. The favorite, Musical Native, was a head farther back in third. Frisky Spider ran the 1 mile on firm turf in 1:33.95. He is trained by Robert Durso.
$1 million Filly & Mare Turf
Punctilious, from the Godolphin stable, won the Ribblesdale -- the "Ascot Oaks" -- and got a potential boost toward the Breeders' Cup. After beating Sahool by 1 1/2 lengths "with something left in the tank," racing manager Simon Crisford said the filly will have a short break. "We will have a look but she belongs with the cream of the cream and races such as the Yorkshire Oaks and then maybe the U.S. must be considered."
$2 million Distaff
-- Sightseek challenged front-running Azeri with three furlongs left in Saturday's $250,000 Ogden Phipps Handicap, got the lead and drew off to win for the fourth time in four tries at Belmont Park. Storm Flag Flying, a Phipps Stable standard-bearer, was second and Passing Shot was third. Azeri, the 2002 Horse of the Year, was pushed along by Sightseek and Storm Flag Flying and then faded to finish fourth. Sightseek won for the 10th time in 17 starts. "I didn't know Sightseek had Azeri until just before the quarter pole," said winning trainer Bobby Frankel. "Azeri obviously didn't run her race. It's a great win. She's a great filly. If they had the Breeders' Cup here, she'd be 1-to-100." Azeri's trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, had the opposite view for his mare. "I'm not sure she cares for this race track," Lukas said. "She's run twice here and she's run two of her sub-par races here. I'm glad we don't have another one." Sightseek is a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred mare by Distant View out of the Nureyev mare Viviana.
-- Hopelessly Devoted took back through the early stages of Saturday's $175,000 Susan's Girl Breeders' Cup Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Delaware Park, then drew off in the stretch to post a comfortable, 4-length victory over From Away. Richetta finished third and the favorite, Pawyne Princess, stopped badly after being rushed to the lead and eased home last. Hopelessly Devoted, a Florida-bred filly by Storm Creek, raced 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.90.
$1 million Sprint
-- At Churchill Downs, Champali bobbled at the start, then caught favorite Beau's Town in the stretch drive of Saturday's $150,000 Aristides Breeders' Cup and easily worked clear to win by 3 1/4 lengths. Beau's Town held second and Battle Won finished third in the six-horse field. Champali, named for Louisville native Muhammad Ali, picked up his fifth stakes victory and ninth overall from 17 career starts. With Rafael Bejarano up, the 4-year-old son of Glitterman ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.04. "This is a good horse," said winning trainer Greg Foley. "He isn't just a so-so horse. This is a good horse -- the best one I ever had." Foley said the victory in the Aristides means Champali will be traveling to some bigger events in the coming months. "He was going to tell me whether he was going to be running at Ellis this summer or vanning around. I think he answered that," Foley said.
-- Court's In Session rapped the gavel on eight rivals in Saturday's $125,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Sprint Handicap, rolling from the middle of the pack to win by 2 1/4 lengths. Debonair Joe came from farther back to finish second with Hombre Rapido not being quite quick enough, fading to third after leading. Court's In Session, a 5-year-old, Washington-bred son of Petersburg, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.91.
$1.5 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- Trainer Bob Baffert is starting to crank out his 2005 Kentucky Derby prospects, led by Roman Ruler, a son of 2000 Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. Roman Ruler won at first asking Saturday at Hollywood Park, romping home by 4 lengths in a 5-furlong event. "He's amazing," Baffert said.
-- Sunday at Hollywood, Chandtrue ran his record to 3-for-3 with a 7-length victory in the $75,000 Haggin Stakes. The son of Yes It's True ran 5 1/2 furlongs under Corey Nakatani in 1:04.02. Baffert's Actxecutive ran fourth as the favorite. "Before he ever ran, I thought he was a one-dimensional rocket ship," said winning trainer Bob Hess Jr. "Now I think we have a pretty nice little horse here."
In other weekend racing:
My Trusty Cat upset Saturday's $175,000 Chicago Breeders' Cup Handicap, rallying from the back of the field to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Our Josephina. Smoke Chaser was third and the heavy favorite, Mayo On the Side, checked in fourth, producing huge show payoffs. My Trusty Cat, a daughter of Tale of the Cat, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.54 under Rene Douglas, picking up her first graded stakes win. "The strategy was simple," said winning trainer David Vance. "With all the speed in the race, I told Rene to take her back. Actually, I knew she'd be last anyway and let her lope along. If she put in her punch, she'd be right there."
Calder Race Course
Mister Fotis broke first in Saturday's $100,000 Unbridled Stakes and never gave up the lead, winning by 1 length over Nightmare Affair with even-money favorite Caballereo Negro third. Mister Fotis, a 3-year-old son of Diligence, got the 1 1/16 mile in 1:48 2/5 over a sloppy track for Gary Boulanger. "I told Gary that I wanted him to go to the lead," said trainer Marty Wolfson, who got the colt only about a month ago. "He's very aggressive and trained like a good horse. I don't know what's next. We'll have to look around."
Misty Sixes led from gate to wire in Saturday's $100,000 Obeah Handicap for fillies and mares, winning by 2 1/2 lengths over Redoubled Miss. Nonsuch Bay rallied from last to finish third, 3 1/2 lengths farther behind the winner. Misty Sixes, a 6-year-old Summer Squall mare, covered 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:51.23 for Mario Pino.
Brandala came from far back to win Sunday's $75,000 Mount Vernon Handicap for New York-bred fillies and mares. The 6-year-old daughter of Compliance came four-wide on the turn and scored by 3/4 length over Lady Libby. The odds-on favorite, On the Bus, got home third. Brandala ran 9 furlongs on "good" turf in 1:49.56.
Demon Warlock upset Sunday's $75,000 Budweiser Emerald Handicap, stalking the early pace and then winning a sprint to the wire with the favorite, Poker Brad. The margin was a head, with Briartic Gold well back in third. Demon Warlock, a 4-year-old, Washington-bred son of Demons Begone, ran 1 mile in 1:34.40.
Rubiano's Image rallied from well back in the field in Saturday's $70,000 Cyclones Handicap for Iowa-breds, came four-wide on the turn into the stretch, and drew clear in the late going to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Take Me Up. The favorite, Cowboy Stuff challenged for the lead on the turn but then hung and finished third. Rubiano's Image, a 4-year-old Rubiano colt, ran 1 1/16 mile on a fast track in 1:43.01.
Our Royal Dancer survived a troubled start in Saturday's $65,000 West Long Branch Stakes for fillies and mares, got by some traffic and cleared in the stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Whoop's Ah Daisy led for a while and held second and the favorite, Fit Performer, finished third. Our Royal Dancer, a 4-year-old, Kentucky-bred daughter of Roy, got the 6 furlongs in 1:10.86.
In Sunday's $60,000 Politely Stakes, Snowdrops broke near the back of the field and was caught in traffic. Once she got through rivals in the stretch, she drove to a 1/2-length victory over Noisette. Lojo was third. The 1 1/16 mile on firm turf took 1:40.65.
Ninebanks saved ground through most of Sunday's $55,000 Foster City Handicap, then came out for room and took charge, winning by 1 1/4 length over Adreamisborn. Handyman Bill finished third and the favorite, Wixoe Express, broke poorly, rushed to contention and then stopped, finishing last of eight. Ninebanks, a 6-year-old Smokester gelding, ran 1 1/16 mile on firm turf in 1:42.73.
Prince Joseph, the pari-mutuel favorite, came out for racing room in the stretch and rallied to win Saturday's $50,000 Peppy Addy Stakes for Pennsylvania-bred 3-year-olds by 1 1/2 lengths. Hey Rube was second and De Magic Moment third. Prince Joseph, by Harry the Hat, ran 7 furlongs in 1:25.20.
Mexican Moonlight grabbed the lead in Saturday's $50,000 Old South Handicap and held off favorite Due to Win Again in the final furlong to win by 1/2 length. Blue Guru was third. Due to Win Again's stablemate, Due to Win (a tip of the hat to the racecaller!) finished fourth. Mexican Moonlight, a 4-year-old, Virginia-bred filly by El Prado, ran the "about" 1 1/16 mile distance in 1:47.15 on yielding turf.
Sunday, Pie N Burger rallied through the stretch in time to win the $50,000 Ark-La-Tex Handicap by 1 length over Meteor Impact. Record Assembly was third and Seainsky completed the order of finish. Pie N Burger, a 6-year-old Twining gelding, ran 1 1/16 mile on a good track in 1:45.16.
With Patience sat patiently off the pace in Saturday's $50,000 Somethingroyal Stakes for Virginia-bred distaffers, swung to the outside with a quarter mile to go and got home first, 1/2 length in front of Bright Gold. Key Wi Miss was third, well back. With Patience, a 5-year-old With Approval mare, ran 5 1/2 furlongs on "good" turf in 1:03.99 under Ryan Fogelsonger.
Ribbon Cane jumped out on top in Saturday's $50,000 Summer Distaff Stakes, rated easily and then took off in the stretch, winning by 8 1/4 lengths over the favorite, Grace Bay. Grace Bay then was disqualified to third for interfering with Lets Just Do It in deep stretch. Ribbon Cane, a 5-year-old Allen's Prospect mare, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:47.19.
Local runner Be My Friend bested a field full of shippers to win Sunday's $100,000 Lady Canterbury Breeders' Cup Stakes for fillies and mares. With 17-year-old Justin Shepherd riding for his mother, trainer Sherri Shepherd, Be My Friend came from off the pace to defeat Cat's Cat and Afleet Angel. Be My Friend ran the 1 mile in 1:35 2/5.
Ghostly Gate surged to the lead in the stretch run and went on to win Saturday's $40,000 Northbound Pride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies by 1 1/2 lengths. Southern Spring was second and Platinum Ballet, the favorite, finished third. The time was 1:41 4/5, a second shy of the track record.