D' Funnybone, the nation’s most accomplished 3-year-old sprinter, will shoot for his fifth graded stakes win when he leads a field of six in the $150,000 Withers Stakes (gr. III) April 24 at Aqueduct.
Four of D’ Funnybone’s five wins have come in grade II events, including back-to-back scores in the Hutcheson and Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park this season.
The son of D'wildcat is using the one-mile Withers as a springboard to the Woody Stephens (gr. II) on Belmont Stakes day and the King’s Bishop (gr. I) Aug. 28 at Saratoga, trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. has said.
“I haven’t gotten anything but good reports on ‘Funnybone’ since he left Florida,” said Dutrow of the 1-2 morning-line favorite.
D’ Funnybone, who was purchased privately by Paul Pompa Jr. following a runner-up finish behind Jackson Bend in the Frank Gomez Memorial Stakes at Calder last July, took his first two races in New York, the Saratoga Special and Futurity (both gr. II), by a combined winning margin of 15 1/4 lengths. In his only start of more than seven furlongs, the chestnut colt finished last in the 1 1/16-mile Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) on Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride to close out his 2-year-old campaign.
Bred in Florida by Harold Plumley, D’ Funnybone is out of the Woodman mare Elbow. The earner of $458,200 will be ridden by Edgar Prado once again and carry top weight of 123 pounds.
Dutrow's other starter is Spangled Star, who will make his stakes debut as an uncoupled entry.
Perhaps the biggest threat to D’ Funnybone will be Anstu Stables’ Ibboyee, who made up a lot of late ground when finishing runner-up by 1 1/4 lengths in the March 20 Swale (gr. II). Ibboyee was also third to D’ Funnybone in the Hutcheson (gr. II), missing by two lengths. Trainer Todd Pletcher is hoping the added distance will benefit the son of Medallist, a New York bred who captured three restricted stakes as a 2-year-old and is 4-1-1 from eight career starts.
Ibboyee will have John Velazquez aboard once more.
Cash is King will hope for a better effort from Afleet Again, who finished last in a field of 10 in the March 6 Gotham (gr. III), his first graded stakes effort. The gray/roan son of Afleet Alex was runner-up in the Whirlaway Stakes in his previous start. Overall, he is 2-1-2 from nine starts for trainer Robert Reid Jr.
Robert Quigley’s Most Happy Fella will break from the rail and try to use his speed to steal it on the front end. The Ecton Park gedling has been a pacesetter in all three of his starts, the last one coming in allowance company March 19 at Aqueduct. In his lone stakes try last out, Most Happy Fella set the pace but faded to finish sixth in the nine-furlong Wood Memorial (gr. I) April 3.
The Gary Contessa-trained Castaneda has won three straight at Aqueduct, all at six furlongs, including a front-running victory in the Fred “Cappy” Capossela March 6. A gelded son of Yonaguska, Castaneda drew post 3 and will also likely contest the early pace.
$150,000 Withers Stakes (gr. III, Race 9, 4:50 p.m.), 3YO, 1 Mile (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Most Happy Fella (NY), E Coa, 116, W Badgett Jr.
2. D' Funnybone (FL), E S Prado 123, R E Dutrow Jr.
3. Castaneda (NY), J F Chavez, 118, G C Contessa
4. Afleet Again (KY), A Mariano, 116, R E Reid Jr.
5. Spangled Star (KY), C H Velasquez, 116, R E Dutrow Jr.
6. Ibboyee (NY), J R Velazquez, 120, T A Pletcher