For some owners, the temptation of rushing a horse just to get to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) is too much to pass up. Not if you’re Paul Pompa Jr.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to win the Derby with a horse that I purchased as a 2-year-old and I enjoyed that very much,” Pompa said, referring to Big Brown. “I’m not going to hurt a horse just to get back there.”
Pompa was speaking of his star 3-year-old D' Funnybone , whom he purchased privately as a juvenile and has gone on to win three grade II sprints. D’ Funnybone, trained by Rick Dutrow Jr., will go for his fourth grade II score March 20 at Gulfstream when he leads a field of nine in the Swale Stakes.
There were some who thought D’ Funnybone was going to bypass the Swale in favor of the Florida Derby (gr. I)—which is also on March 20—after probable favorite Eskendereya defected to the Wood Memorial (gr. I). That decision would not have made much sense, Pompa said.
“He seems to be one of the top 3-year-old sprinters in the country. There was no reason to have a knee-jerk reaction just because Eskendereya dropped out,” Pompa said. “D’ Funnybone is not a mile and quarter horse. He’s on his way to becoming a promising stallion. We don’t want to jeopardize that.”
D’ Funnybone, by D'wildcat, out of the Woodman mare Elbow, has won four of six lifetime starts for earnings of $368,200. Pompa purchased the chestnut colt privately from his breeder, Harold Plumley, after he finished runner-up in the Frank Gomez Memorial Stakes at Calder last summer.
D’ Funnybone went on to win the Saratoga Special (gr. II) and Belmont’s Futurity (gr. II) in his next two starts, then finished 13th in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) in the only off-the-board effort of his career—a loss that Dutrow attributes more to his dislike for the synthetic Pro-Ride surface than he does the added distance. In his 2010 debut, D’ Funnybone scored the Hutcheson (gr. II) by a length Feb. 20 at Gulfstream.
Though Pompa did rule out a run in the Kentucky Derby for D’ Funnybone, he did seem to think the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) could make more sense.
“If everything goes right (in the Swale) the plan right now is the Withers (gr. III, April 24 at Aqueduct) and the Preakness. (The Preakness) is a little shorter than the Derby and the tight turns at Pimlico are more conducive to his style.”
Pompa, who owns a successful trucking business in New York, has certainly established himself as an owner with a keen eye for talent over the past few years. He bought Big Brown for $190,000 at the Keeneland 2007 2-year-olds in training sale before selling a 75% interest to IEAH Stables for a reported $3.5 million. And D’ Funnybone is not the only stakes caliber horse he has acquired, either through sales or private purchases.
Among the stakes winners Pompa currently has in training are 5-year-old Understatement, an earner of nearly $200,000 who is being pointed to the $1 million Charles Town Classic April 17; multiple graded stakes winner Mary's Follies; recent turf stakes winner Rose Catherine (Appalachian Stakes, gr. IIIT, April 15 at Keeneland); 4-year-old Well Positioned (New Orleans Handicap, gr. II, March 27 at Fair Grounds); and talented 3-year-old filly Franny Freud, who was runner-up in the Santa Ynez (gr. II) in January and will point toward the Beaumont Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland April 7.