Funfair made his way into Saturday's $2,025,000 NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) the old-fashioned way. He earned it.
The English-bred son of Singspiel
earned his trip with a head win over fellow Breeders' Cup Mile starter Artie Schiller in the Kelso Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. IIT) over the Belmont turf.
"I don't know if he's up to the task (in the Mile), but he's done everything I've asked of him," said trainer Graham Motion. "When he beat Artie Schiller (in the Kelso Breeders' Cup), he showed he belongs in the race."
Funfair, after beginning his career in England, was transferred to Motion's Fair Hills Training Center base earlier this year. Since moving to North America he has blossomed into a dual stakes winner, getting his first black-type North American win in the Troy Stakes, restricted for non-winners of a stakes in 2004-05, before taking the Kelso. "I think, to the handicappers and to myself, he's an unknown quantity," the trainer said. "I really don't know how good he is."
Chris Richardson, managing director of Cheveley Park Stud, which campaigns Funfair, called getting in the Mile a dream. "If he hadn't beat Artie Schiller and come up the rail as he did in impressive style then we wouldn't be having this," he said. "He's a tough 6-year-old gelding now and we've given him the time and he's certainly come along very well."
Moving Funfair to America, Richardson said, was a decision to branch out the Cheveley Park operation. "A horse like Funfair has an American-type pedigree on his dam's side," he said. "It was just a decision to send him and another over to Graham Motion and we've had seven starts, five wins, and a second and a third. It's been a great start. It's put all the horses we have in training in England very much on their toes."
Motion also conditions Battle Chant, who will start in Sunday's Knickerbocker Handicap (gr. IIIT), for Cheveley Park.
As far as Funfair's race is concerned, Richardson said the condition of the turf Saturday is a worry. "I think most Singspiel's prefer top of the ground," he said. "I am encouraged by the fact that when he won the Troy stakes it was on soft ground. When he beat Artie Schiller it was (over) fast ground. I must say true English soft ground is not ideal by any means, but the horse is in great form and the opportunity of having a 12-1 shot in the Breeders' Cup is a dream in our first year of having horses in training in America at this level."
Funfair galloped 1 ½ miles on wood chips at Fair Hill Training Center Thursday morning before being loaded onto a van bound for Belmont Park. He was on the Belmont track Friday morning.
In addition to Funfair, Cheveley Park bred Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) contender Megahertz and stand the sire (Pivotal) of Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) contender Leo.