The gritty gelding Funny Cide, a loser of six straight grade I races since he won the 2003 Preakness, came back from what appeared to be certain defeat for a spine-tingling victory in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) Saturday at Belmont Park.
After battling Love of Money for the lead, Funny Cide, ridden by his regular partner Jose Santos, had fallen back to third with a quarter mile to go and appeared to be struggling. He was under a ride as Newfoundland and Love of Money drove on through the stretch. But roused by Santos when challenged on the outside by The Cliff's Edge, Funny Cide somehow found more, coming back to gradually wear down Newfoundland in deep stretch to post a three-quarters of a length victory. The Cliff's Edge was third, a length farther back, as Love of Money dropped out of contention. The final time was 2:02 2/5 under a light rain.
The popular New York-bred 4-year-old Distorted Humor
gelding, restrained by Santos in the early going, fought Love of Money through early fractions of :24 and :47 3/5.
On the far turn, Newfoundland, ridden by Edgar Prado, edged up three wide to engage for the lead. He took a slight advantage in upper stretch as Funny Cide floundered and opened up gradually to hold a daylight lead. But the $3.3 million colt began to tire in the final furlong and could not hold off the resurgent Funny Cide, who put away The Cliff's Edge as well.
Funny Cide appeared to be exhausted by his taxing effort as he returned to the winner's circle.
Funny Cide snapped a four-race losing streak for trainer Barclay Tagg and owners Sackatoga Stable while winning for the third time in six tries at 10 furlongs.
Tagg said his horse needed an impressive win to earn a trip to the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I).
Tagg, all smiles for the first time in months, said a trip to Texas for another try at the BC Classic on Oct. 30 is next. Funny Cide ran ninth in the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita.
"I felt if we won, he'd go to the Breeders' Cup," Tagg said. "If he lost, even by an inch, I didn't want to go."
Jack Knowlton and his lovable high school pals from upstate New York were celebrating in the winner's circle afterward at the track where the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner was unable to complete last year's Triple Crown.
"It's a big, big win," Tagg said. "This used to be the defining race of the year. We looking forward to a good race from him."
The Gold Cup was one of four grade I races on the program. But Funny Cide stole the show.
The $600,000 winner's share pushed his earnings in 2004 to more than $1 million with three wins from nine starts. Overall, he has a lifetime record of 8-4-5 in 20 outings with earnings of $3,174,485.
From the Slewacide mare Belle's Good Cide, Funny Cide was a $22,000 Saratoga yearling sale in 2001.
A co-favorite in the field of seven with Love of Money, Funny Cide paid $7.60, $4.80 and $2.50. Newfoundland returned $11.60 and $5.50 while completing a $97 exacta. The Cliff's Edge was $2.90 to show.
Evening Attire was fourth, followed by Bowman's Band, Love of Money and Domestic Dispute.