Funny Cide, who was beaten just a half-length by Kentucky Derby (gr. I) favorite Empire Maker in the Wood Memorial (gr. I), sprung the upset Saturday at Churchill Downs, beating Empire Maker by 1 ¾ lengths. He became the first New York-bred to ever win the Derby and the first gelding to take the roses since 1929.
Owned by the Sackatoga Stable of Jackson Knowlton and partners, Funny Cide is trained by Barclay Tagg and ridden by Jose Santos. Sackatoga is a group of six high school friends who have only three horses in training. Knowlton owns a health-care consulting firm in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
Funny Cide was the first Derby starter ever for Tagg, who kept the gelding in New York until Wednesday of Derby week. He is the first Derby winner since Bold Forbes in 1976 to not race or work over the Churchill surface prior to the Derby.
It was the first Derby win for Santos from seven mounts. His best previous finish was fourth aboard Cryptoclearance in his first Derby, 1987.
Favorite Empire Maker finished second and seemed to answer the question about whether or not his hoof bruise would compromise his chances. He looked fine during the race and just got beat.
Bobby Frankel was trying to win his first Derby as well and finished second and third with Empire Maker and Peace Rules. Atswhatimtalknbout ran fourth.
Funny Cide returned a hefty $27.60, $12.40, and $8.20. Empire Maker paid $5.80 and $4.40, while Peace Rules was worth $6.
Funny Cide ran the 1 ¼ miles in 2:01.19 after fractions of :22.78, :46.23, 1:10.48, and 1:35.75. The exacta paid $97, trifecta $664.80, and superfecta $2,795.80. The Kentucky Oaks/Kentucky Derby Daily Double was worth $421.80.
In the three advance wagering Derby pools, Funny Cide paid $188, $120.80, and $107.40.
Funny Cide has only been off the board once in seven career starts. He has four wins and two seconds. Funny Cide made his first start on Sept. 8, 2002, impressively breaking his maiden by 14 3/4 lengths at Belmont. He won his first three starts, all in state-bred company as a 2-year-old. In his first start at three, he ran fifth in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) after hitting the gate at the break and racing wide. He then ran third in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) before pushing Empire Maker in the Wood Memorial.
The race was run before an on-track crowd of 148,530, the fifth largest crowd in Kentucky Derby history.
Empire Maker was the 6-5 morning line favorite, but he went off 5-2, many bettors obviously concerned about his setback in training earlier in the week.
The winner was bred in New York by Win Star Farm. He is by Distorted Humor out of the Slewacide mare Belle's Good Cide.
The early fractions were set by Brancusi and Peace Rules. While many thought Funny Cide would be among the early pacesetters, he was in a stalking position. Peace Rules had the lead as the field turned for home, Funny Cide was between horses, and Empire Maker was three wide down the stretch.
Empire Maker was in a good spot for the stretch run, but could not catch Funny Cide down the lane. Atswhatimtalknbout was closing fastest of all.
The complete order of finish was: Funny Cide, Empire Maker, Peace Rules, Atswhatimtalknbout, Eye of the Tiger, Buddy Gil, Outta Here, Ten Cents a Shine, Ten Most Wanted, Domestic Dispute, Scrimshaw, Offlee Wild, Supah Blitz, Indian Express, Lone Star Sky, and Brancusi.
The last gelding to win the Derby was Clyde Van Dusen in 1929. Since then, geldings had gone 0-74 in the Derby.
Tagg, 55, began training in 1971 after riding jumpers for five years. He sent out his first winner, Tudor's Fancy, at Liberty Bell in January 1972. He is more known for jumpers and flat horses on the grass.
Santos, 42, won the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) last October with Volponi and won his first Triple Crown race in 1999 when he guided Lemon Drop Kid to victory in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
"I always had a dream to win the Kentucky Derby," Santos said. "I am very proud to ride in New York, a horse comes from New York, a trainer from new York and an owner who couldn't be more from New York. I had a strong feeling about this colt after the Wood (second place finish to Empire Maker). After the Wood, the jockey (on Empire Maker) said he did not want to squeeze the lemon dry. He is a very good horse, but I think the lemon was pretty dry there. Sometimes the best horse cannot win the Derby, but today the best horse did win the Kentucky Derby."
Tagg said Funny Cide will leave Louisville, Ky. on Sunday morning to return to New York and will be pointed toward the Preakness Stakes in two weeks. Tagg said he has watched the Derby on television since 1953. "That's when we got our first TV," Tagg said. "I am very excited and very thankful (about winning the Derby)."
"He (Tagg) has pulled off something a lot most people did not think could be done," Knowlton said. "He won the Kentucky Derby with a New York bred and he won the Kentucky Derby with a gelding. It's such a thrill for us, we are just excited beyond belief. We have little stable of three New York breds."
Bailey had no excuses aboard the favorite, Empire Maker, and neither did Edgar Prado, who was aboard Frankel's second horse, Peace Rules.
``He was giving it his all, but I could tell it was a lot more effort today than it was in the Florida Derby," he said.
``He tried really hard," Prado said. "We got a beautiful trip and settled in very easily. He tried very hard; we just got beat.''
Wally Dollase, trainer of third choice Ten Most Wanted, was disappointed. His horse was squeezed out of the gate and never was in contention under Pat Day, finishing ninth.
``I don't understand it," he said "I can't believe it. I just don't know why he didn't run his race.''
The winner was bred by the Win Star Farm of Kenny Troutt and Bill Casner. They bought the farm near Versailles, Ky., in early 2000 so the mating was done by the previous owners, brothers Art. Jack and J.R. Preston. The farm was then called Prestonwood. Distorted Humor, sire of the Derby winner, stands at Win Star.
Funny Cide was sold as a yearling at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale for $22,000. Tagg saw him for the first time November of his yearling year at Tony Everard's farm and training center in Ocala, Fla. Tagg said he liked Funny Cide but did not purchase him until the following spring, paying $75,000 for the Derby winner. (Chart, Equibase