Funny Cide was ninth in last year's Breeders' Cup Classic and had only two minor wins in eight starts this year coming into Saturday's $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park. But, after the 2003 Kentucky Derby winner scored a game victory at Belmont, his owners are ready for a return to the big race and warn not to underestimate their horse.
Gold Cups at Belmont Park in New York and Hawthorne Race Course near Chicago highlighted a huge weekend of racing on two continents that firms up plans for the Oct. 30 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Lone Star Park in Texas. The eight races on that card, worth $14 million, will help settle year-end championships.
"Maybe he'll be the fifth or sixth favorite in the Breeders' Cup," said Jack Knowlton, managing partner of Sackatoga Stable, which owns Funny Cide, a Distorted Humor gelding. "But anybody who takes him too lightly is making a mistake. He's just tenacious. He has no quit in him and he's always going to be in the race with his natural speed."
Funny Cide and jockey Jose Santos stayed close to pace-setting favorite, Love of Money but then strangely backed out of the pace scenario on the second turn. Newfoundland, the longest chance in the seven-horse field, got the lead. Then, prompted by a challenge from The Cliff's Edge on his outside, Funny Cide surged back into the race, dusted past The Cliff's Edge and caught Newfoundland to win by 3/4 length. The Cliff's Edge held third while Love of Money faded badly to beat only one horse.
Funny Cide took 2:02.44 over a track officially rated fast.
Santos said he was gauging Love of Money as he managed Funny Cide's tactics through the race. "After the half, I felt comfortable with this horse because I know him well," he added.
Newfoundland also may try the Classic, said trainer Todd Pletcher. "Based on this race and the Suburban (a neck loss to recently retired Peace Rules), you could make a case and take a shot." Trainer Nick Zito said The Cliff's Edge will not go to the Classic. Instead, he will saddle Belmont Stakes and Travers winner Birdstone in that race.
Trainer Dick Dutrow said he was disappointed and confused by Love of Money's collapse. "I really expected him to win today," Dutrow said.
In other weekend races with potential implications for the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic, Powered by Dodge:
-- Saturday's $750,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup was supposed to be Perfect Drift's return to success and a stepping stone to the Breeders' Cup Classic, where he finished sixth last year off a Gold Cup win. But this time, Perfect Drift couldn't win the prep, surrendering the lead to late-running Freefourinternet in deep stretch. The final margin was 1 3/4 lengths, with Sonic West finishing third. Freefourinternet, a 6-year-old son of Tabasco Cat, rallied from somewhere around Midway Airport for the victory under Greta Kuntzweiler. At one point, he was more than 20 lengths back. Perfect Drift's jockey, Pat Day, said his mount just couldn't deal with the late challenge. "As easy as we got there, I expected decided acceleration," Day said. "I just didn't get it." Mike Maker, who trains Freefourinternet, said he won't try to change the horse's running style. "I don't think we're going to find many horses that will close like this one," he said. The Gold Cup was only his fifth start on the main track and his second win over the surface. Asked if he will stay on the dirt, Maker said, "After today, I think we'll have to. We'll look at the Breeders' Cup and the Clark at Churchill." He said Kuntzweiler will keep the mount.
-- Pies Prospect and Eddington battled head-to-head down the lane in Friday night's $300,000 Pegasus Handicap for 3-year-olds at Meadowlands, bumping at one point before Pies Prospect prevailed by a neck. Zakocity was 3 1/2 lengths back in third. Pies Prospect, a son of Crafty Prospector, ran 9 furlongs on a fast track in 1:48.57 with Edgar Prado aboard. Prado said the competition through the stretch helped Pies Prospect. "He just kept digging down," he said. Eddington, the favorite, had finished third in the Preakness and fourth in the Belmont.
-- Lundy's Liability, a 4-year-old Brazilian-bred son of Candy Stripes, dueled favorite Total Impact into submission in Saturday's $500,000 Goodwood Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita. With Lundy's Liability inside and Total Impact outside, the pair traded the lead at each call until the wire, where Lundy's Liability was a head in front. The 1 1/8 mile went in 1:48.39. Supah Blitz was third, 2 lengths farther back in the five-horse field. Humberto Ascanio, assistant to trainer Bobby Frankel, said he didn't know the Breeders' Cup status of Lundy's Liability.
-- Brass Hat upset Saturday's $500,000 Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park, rallying from last in a field of nine to win by 1 3/4 lengths over Suave. Hasslefree was third while the favorite, Pollard's Vision, had some traffic problems, then weakened in the stretch to finish sixth. The other top contender, Sir Shackleton, was fourth. Brass Hat, a Prized gelding, finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.04. Winning trainer William Bradley said he told jockey Willie Martinez "to let the speed horses go and just try to get in position for the stetch run, since that's what he likes to do." Bradley said he would like to keep Brass Hat competing with 3-year-olds and may look to the Walmac Lone Star Derby the day before the Breeders' Cup.
$2 million John Deere Turf
-- After winning Saturday's $750,000 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic at Belmont Park by a convincing 2 1/2 lengths, Kitten's Joy is just a head-bob from a nine-race winning streak and clearly a force the European invaders must reckon with at Lone Star Park in four weeks time. The 3-year-old son of El Prado, with John Velazquez subbing for Jerry Bailey, did what he's done repeatedly at six different tracks -- sit off the pace and make a run when asked. Saturday, he got home 2 1/2 lengths ahead of Magistretti, with Tycoon third. The 1 1/2 mile event took 2:29.97 on yielding turf. Kitten's Joy broke his maiden last October at Belmont. Since then, his only loss was by a head in the Jefferson Cup at Churchill Downs, on yielding turf. The Turf Classic score gives him two straight Grade I victories, backing up a triumph in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park in August. "What amazed me about him is his turn of foot, acceleration and how kind he is during the race," said winning trainer Dale Romans. "When you ask him, he just turns it on. This is the best race he's run so far. I thought he would relish a mile and a half and he showed that he did today." He said he will take Kitten's Joy to Lone Star early and train him up to the Breeders' Cup Turf, where he will try to become the third 3-year-old to win that event after taking the Turf Classic. Manila did it in 1986 and Tikkanen in 1994.
-- Bago, a 3-year-old son of Nashwan, was the top 2-year-old in France last year but had some trouble this summer in Group 1 events. He redeemed himself with a stirring, stretch-running victory in Sunday's $1.5 million Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in Paris. This year's Arc was wide open, with no real favorite among 18 starters. But in deep stretch, Cherry Mix took the lead from tiring pace-setter North Light and seemed cruising for the win. But Bago, with Thierry Gillet up, shot between horses and was just up to take the win at the wire. The filly Ouija Board, winner of the Epsom Oaks and the Irish Oaks earlier this year, closed stoutly on the outside to take third. However, Alan Cooper, racing manager for the Niarchos family, said Bago is headed for the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic at 1 1/4 mile on the main track, rather than the $2 million Turf.
-- Star Over the Bay shot out of the gate in Sunday's $250,000 Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship at Santa Anita, opened up a huge lead and held on to win by 3/4 length over Sarafan. Vangelis was third. The favorite, Bayamo, pulled up lame and was vanned off. Star Over the Bay, a 6-year-old Cozzene gelding, ran the 1 1/4 mile on firm turf in 1:58.70 for Tyler Baze. Trainer Mike Mitchell said he was unconcerned about pace or margin of victory. "Whatever. I don't care. I don't care about fractions. I don't care about anything. He won. We're going to the Breeders' Cup Turf," Mitchell said.
-- In Canada, in the $250,000 (Canadian) Sky Classic Stakes, Colorful Judgment got room on the inside during the stretch run and beat Lenny The Lender by a neck. Longship held third after showing the way. The 1 3/8 mile over firm turf took 2:16.19. Strut the Stage, a 2-5 favorite, finished last, creating huge show payoffs as the bridge jumpers took the plunge. Colorful Judgment had finished second to Strut the Stage in his last outing, the Niagara, on Sept. 6. Mark Frostad, who trains both Colorful Judgment and Strut the Stage, said he will assess the latter horse. "I'm sure he's fine. It's just one of those things," he said. He said Colorful Judgment could surface next in the $1.5 million (Canadian) Pattison Canadian International at Woodbine on Oct. 24.
$2 million Nextel Distaff
-- Daydreaming, Capeside Lady and Stellar Jayne all had a chance in the final furlong of Friday night's $400,000 Indiana Breeders' Cup Oaks at Hoosier Park but it was Daydreaming who got clear at the end to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Capeside Lady was second, a head in front of Stellar Jayne, who was caught in tight between her rivals during the drive. The stewards conducted an inquiry but let the result stand. Daydreaming, with John Velazquez up, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.65. Daydreaming is a daughter of A.P. Indy out of the Mr. Prospector mare Get Lucky. Shug McGaughey trains for Ogden Mills Phipps. "The race worked out well and we had a little speed in front of us," McGaughey said. "She will go back to New York on Sunday and then we'll take it from there on where she's going next."
-- Island Fashion got the lead at the top of the stretch in Sunday's $250,000 Lady's Secret Breeders' Cup Handicap at Santa Anita and held on to defeat rivals on her inside and outside. Miss Loren was second, 1/2 length back, and Elloluv finished third. The favorite, Summer Wind Dancer, was fourth. Island Fashion, a 4-year-old daughter of Petionville, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:43.43. "When she gets into a fight with horses coming down the stretch, she'll fight back," said winning trainer Marcelo Polanco.
-- Ashado, who has been racing in top 3-year-old filly company all year, detoured to Philadelphia Park Saturday for a pre-Distaff confidence booster in the $250,000 Cotillion Handicap. The strategy worked, as the Saint Ballado filly did what she was asked to do. After tracking Ender's Sister, Ashado rallied on the outside and won easily, by 2 3/4 lengths. She finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:41.68. Ender's Sister held second and My Lordship was 3 1/2 lengths farther back in third.
$1.5 million NetJets Mile (turf)
-- Needwood Blade found a narrow opening between rivals at mid-stretch of Saturday's $150,000 Bay Meadows Breeders' Cup Handicap, went through and went on to upset the event by 1 length. Seinne was second and Balestrini was third. The favorite, Ninebanks, could do no better than fourth. Needwood Blade, a British-bred daughter of Pivotal, ran "about" 1 1/8 mile on firm turf in 1:46.55. She went to the post as the longshot of an evenly matched field at 11-1.
$1 million Filly & Mare Turf
-- Riskaverse put in a strong late run on the outside in Saturday's $750,000 Flower Bowl Invitational at Belmont Park, getting past the leaders in the final strides to win by 3/4 length. Commercante was second, just a head in front of Moscow Burning. The favorite, Wonder Again, finished sixth, snapping a two-race winning streak. The 1 1/4 mile went in 2:04.65 on yielding turf. Riskaverse, a 5-year-old daughter of Dynaformer, had not won since last November but finished second in her last two starts, the Diana at Saratoga and the Beverly D. at Arlington Park. "I haven't picked out too many easy spots for her," said winning trainer Patrick Kelly, "but she has been up to the task. ... Unfortunately, the Breeders' Cup is at a mile and three-eighths this year. We've been a little leery of the longer races. But the way she ran today, and with maturity, we could try it." Wonder Again's trainer, James Toner, said he "might have been a little too conservative with her training. We'll sit down and talk about our plans."
-- Trainer Bobby Frankel continued to work his magic with imported turf-runners in Saturday's $500,000 Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita. Light Jig, a 4-year-old, British-bred daughter of Danehill, split rivals on the turn, swung four-wide into the stretch and kicked clear to win by 4 lengths over Tangle. Katdogawn was third. Light Jig, with Rene Douglas up for the first time, ran the 1 1/4 mile on firm turf in 1:59.28. The Juddmonte Farms homebred shipped to the United States after her 3-year-old season. She had won three of four for Frankel before a dull sixth-place finish in her last outing, the Mabee Handicap at Del Mar, in late July. Asked about the Breeders' Cup, Frankel assistant Humberto Ascanio said, "We'll see how she is tomorrow and I'll have to talk to Bobby."
-- At Longchamp in Paris, Alexander Goldrun caught favorite Grey Lilas in the late going to win the $300,000 Prix de l'Opera by 1 length and then survived an inquiry before the result was posted officially. Walkamia was third. Alexander Goldrun finished the 2,000 meters in 2:02.30.
$1 million Sprint
-- Pico Central stayed close to the pace early in Saturday's $500,000 Vosburgh at Belmont Park, then blew by the leaders and won by 4 easy lengths. Voodoo, the longshot in the field of five, was up for second. Speightstown, the favorite, finished third -- his worst finish since March of 2001. Cajun Beat, the defending Breeders' Cup Sprint champion, battled gamely until the final yards in his first race back after a spring trip to Dubai, where he finished fourth in the Golden Shaheen. Pico Central, a 5-year-old Brazilian-bred, had won three straight, including the Carter at 7 furlongs and the Met Mile, before finishing third in the Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap at Del Mar last month. Trainer Paul Lobo said Pico Central may not go to Texas. "He doesn't have to run in the Breeders' Cup to become sprint champion," said Lobo, tempting fate. "We beat Speightstown and Cajun Beat here and won three Grade I races. If anything, we'll look at the Cigar Mile." Voodoo also is an unlikely candidate for the Breeders' Cup but Speightstown is expected to make the trip, with trainer Todd Pletcher hoping a win there would retore the 6-year-old's chances for year-end honors.
-- Var, a Kentucky-bred son of Forest Wildcat, won Sunday's $250,000 Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp in Paris by 1/2 length over The Tattling. Trainer Clive Brittain said Var, now recovered from a string of injuries, could go either to the Breeders' Cup Sprint or to the Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin on Dec. 12.
-- Bending Strings powered past the leaders with a furlong to go in Saturday's $150,000 Safely Kept Breeders' Cup for 3-year-old fillies at Pimlico in Maryland, then drew off to win by 2 1/4 lengths over Smokey Glacken. Then She Laughs was third while the favorite, Gilded Gold, ran next-to-last. Bending Strings, a daughter of American Chance, ran 6 furlongs in 1:10.11 with Horacio Karamanos up. Nine of her 10 starts this year have been in graded stakes, including a second-place finish in the Test at Saratoga. "In this race there was a lot of speed and that was good for my filly. When I asked her at the quarter pole, she gave me some good acceleration. She pulled out in the stretch and she flew in the last part."
-- Charming Socialite upset heavy favorite Bwana Charlie in Saturday's $100,000 Alysheba Breeders' Cup Stakes at Lone Star Park, surprising the connections of both horses and casting doubt on Bwana Charlie's potential for the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Bwana Charlie, winner of the Amsterdam Stakes at Saratoga, got the lead in the stretch after tracking the early pace. But Charming Socialite came past him in deep stretch to win by 3/4 length. Charming Socialite, a 3-year-old, Texas-bred gelding by Sunny's Halo, finished in 1:09.73. He is not nominated to the Breeders' Cup. "It's hard to believe that horse outran the horse I was on," said Bwana Charlie's jockey, Donnie Meche. Charming Socialite's co-owner, Bill Pettit, said, "It looked like we could possibly get a check for third to fifth." Charming Sociality went to the post at odds of 22.1.
$1.5 million Bessemer Trust Juvenile
-- Roman Ruler looked dominant in Sunday's $200,000 Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita, drawing clear to win by 4 1/2 lengths with only minor urging by jockey Corey Nakatani. The Bob Baffert trainee, a son of Fusaichi Pegasus, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.27. Boston Glory finished second and it was 13 lengths back to Littlebitofzip in third. "He was pretty much in hand all the way," Nakatani said. Baffert said the colt got enough work in the race that "now I don't have to work him vary far," for the Juvenile.
-- Oratorio shipped in from Ireland to steal a victory in Sunday's $400,000 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere at Longchamp in Paris. The Aidan O'Brien-trained colt slipped through on the inside while the French duo of Early March and Layman were dueling for the lead. Oratorio, a son of Danehill, won by a neck in 1:19.30. O'Brien said he is entered for the Dewhurst Stakes Oct. 16 at Newmarket but said he "would not rule out" a try in the Breeders' Cup.
-- Cin Cin scored his second consecutive stakes victory Saturday at Calder Race Course in Florida, closing quickly to take the lead in the stretch, then holding off D'court's Speed to win by 1/2 length. The 1 mile and 70 yards took 1:46 1/5. Hal's Image was third. Cin Cin (pronounced Chin Chin), won the $125,000 Affirmed Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes in his last outing and is expected to go on to the final of that series, the In Reality Division on Oct. 23. "I was worried that Cin Cin might be suspect in his first start around two turns," said winning trainer Bill White, who also train's D'court's Speed.
$1 million Juvenile Fillies
-- Sweet Catomine, leaving from the outside gate, was hung wide on both turns of Saturday's $200,000 Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita but still won with authority by 4 lengths over the favorite, Splended Blended. Memorette completed the trifecta. Sweet Catomine, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Storm Cat, finished the 1 1/16 mile in 1:42.98 with Corey Nakatani in the irons. Julio Canani trains the filly for Mr. and Mrs. Martin Wygod. Canani said the filly could stay closer to the pace and better positioned. "But we wanted to do what we did today, so she could learn." Now, said Nakatani, "She's ready to step to the next level and go to the Breeders' Cup."
-- Enduring Will romped home a 10-length winner in Friday's $100,000 Silver Spur Breeders' Cup Stakes at Lone Star Park and her owner, trainer and jockey are enthusiastic about a return to the strip on Oct. 30. Picking up her second win in three tries, the Kentucky-bred daughter of Arch sat well off the early pace, swung three wide under urging by Lonnie Meche and accelerated sharply through the stretch. She ran the 1 mile on a sloppy track in 1:39.49. Kristin's Charm was second and Berdelia third. "She felt like a million bucks," Meche said. Trainer Al Stall Jr. said he will take the filly back to Louisiana Downs "and we'll give (the Breeders' Cup) some good thought. "My gut feeling is, yes." Owner/breeder Michael Rainier added: "This was a $100,000 race, so the track just paid the (Breeders' Cup) entry fee. It's a dream for a breeder to run in the Breeders' Cup."
-- Dansetta Light ran past pace-setting Leona's Knight in the stretch and held on to beat Frosty Royalty by 4 1/4 lengths in Saturday's $100,000 Brave Raj Stakes at Calder Race Course. The 1 mile and 70 yards went in 1:49. Dansetta Light, a daughter of Colony Light, also beat Frosty Reality in her last start, the Lindsay Frolic Stakes at Calder. Trainer David Brownlee said Dansetta Light will go on to the $400,000 My Dear Girl Division of the Florida Stallion Stakes on Oct. 23.
-- Higher World led most of the way to a neck victory over Didycheatmeandhow in Sunday's $175,000 (Canadian) Mazarine Breeders' Cup Stakes at Woobine. Dancehall Deelites was third. Higher World, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Peaks and Valleys, ran 1 1/16 mile in 1:47.99 for Patrick Husbands. "There's an outside shot we could take her to the Breeders' Cup," said winning trainer Mark Casse. "I think she's pretty good. She'll run all day."
In other weekend racing:
Abbondanza survived some bumping at the start of Saturday's $100,000 Gallant Bob Handicap for 3-year-olds, got quickly to the front and never looked back, winning by 3 1/2 lengths over Primary Suspect. Knight of Darkness was third. Abbondanza, a Florida-bred son of Alphabet Soup, ran 6 furlongs in 1:08.11 with Eibar Coa up. The rider of All Hail Stormy, who finished fifth after the bumping incident, claimed foul but the stewards set the result stand.
Hawthorne Race Course
Beret trailed the field in the early part of Saturday's $100,000 Indian Maid Breeders' Cup Handicap, swung six-wide for room into the stretch and went on to win by 4 lengths over Delicatessa. Golden Trevally was third, a neck farther back. Beret, a 5-year-old daughter of Royal Academy, ran 1 1/16 mile on the Hawthorne turf in 1:43.44.
Lyracist upset Saturday's $100,000 Kelso Handicap, beating Spicy Stuff by 2 lengths under the wire. Private Lap, the even-money favorite, finished third but was set down to fourth by the stewards for interference. Lyracist, an 8-year-old by Sultry Song, ran 1 3/16 in 1:57 3/5 with Nick Petro up, picking up his 12th career win.
Cappuchino, at 31-1, never trailed in Saturday's $100,000 Turfway Park Fall Championship, winning by 4 lengths and finishing 1 mile in 1:37.19. "Perfect," said winning rider Dean Sarvis. "I had plenty of horse left." The California shipper had not won in five previous starts this year, all in California. "I think he likes it better here," said co-owner George Todaro. "If he gets and easy lead, he's gone." Crafty Shaw was second and Added Edge third.
Lone Star Park
My Misty Princess crossed the line first in Sunday's $100,000 Yellow Rose Breeders' Cup Stakes for fillies and mares but was disqualified to fourth for interference. Aud was promoted to the win, with Janeian second and Queena Corrina third. The 1 1/8-mile race went in 1:48.41 on firm turf. Aud is a 4-year-old daughter of Wild Again.
Also Sunday, Leaving On My Mind rallied in late stretch to win the $100,000 Middleground Breeders' Cup Stakes for 2-year-olds by 1 1/4 length over Ready Ruler. Rubialedo was third. Leaving On My Mind, by Valid Expectations, ran 1 mile in 1:39.12.
Up Like Thunder rolled down the stretch to win Sunday's $100,000 Bertram F. Bongard Stakes for New York-bred 2-year-olds by 4 3/4 lengths over Freddy the Cap. Accurate was third. Up Like Thunder, a son of War Chant, ran 7 furlongs in 1:23.63.
Also Sunday, Megascape led most of the way to win the $100,000 Joseph A. Gimma Stakes for New York-bred 2-year-old fillies by 3 1/4 lengths over Social Virtue with Royal Fudge finishing third. Megascape, by Cape Canaveral, ran the 7 furlongs in 1:25.83.