Funny Cide is presented to his fans at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Funny Cide is presented to his fans at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Alex Cutadean

Funny Cide Heats Up Horse Park

The New York-bred gelding was welcomed to the park's Hall of Champions Dec. 5.

Funny Cide was officially welcomed to his new home at the Kentucky Horse Park’s Hall of Champions Dec. 5, becoming the second Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner and champion to take up residence there in just over a month.

Like his immediate predecessor at the Hall of Champions, Alysheba, who arrived Oct. 31, Funny Cide was known as a “people’s horse.” This was due to the fact  he was a New York-bred and a gelding, but also because his owners, Sackatoga Stable, were the epitome of the “small guys” in the business who reached the top.

At the Horse Park ceremony, Jack Knowlton, managing partner of Sackatoga, stated what he felt was Funny Cide’s legacy as the horse was paraded in the pavilion in front of him.

“He represents hope for the little guy,” Knowlton told several hundred people who braved the cold to welcome Funny Cide. “People tell us all the time that they’ve gotten into this game because of him. Also, racing needs more horses like him who fans can enjoy after their Triple Crown seasons. He was a huge fan favorite because he ran as long as he did--into his 7-year-old season--and because he was an underdog. We still get emails and letters from his fans everywhere.”

Funny Cide Slide Show
Funny CideFunny Cide

Funny Cide’s popularity grew through the Triple Crown series thanks to his ownership--10 partners who were small-time players in horses, including six who went to high school together in Sackets Harbor, a small town on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario in upstate New York.

The Sackatoga Stable partners each threw in $5,000 to buy horses, and they furthered their blue-collar reputation by traveling to the Triple Crown races in a yellow school bus, the only means of transportation they could find for their large group at a reasonable rate in Louisville en route to the Derby. After winning in Kentucky, they figured why break up a good thing, and rented school buses in Baltimore and New York. 

A $22,000 yearling purchase, Funny Cide, by Distorted Humor --Belle’s Good Cide, by Slewacide, was running under everyone’s radar until he finished second to the powerful Empire Maker in the 2003 Wood Memorial (gr. I).

Three weeks later at Churchill Downs, Funny Cide turned the tables, laying close throughout the Derby and holding off Empire Maker  by 1 3/4 lengths. He went on to crush his field in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) before finishing third behind Empire Maker and Ten Most Wanted in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

New York in particular embraced Funny Cide as a hometown hero, as 101,864 patrons showed up for the Belmont Stakes, the second-highest crowd in history for the race. His popularity continued to skyrocket in Saratoga after the Triple Crown series, and a Funny Cide shop opened in town. Beer, ice cream, and souvenirs were marketed in his name.

Funny Cide went on to race 38 times over six seasons, winning 11, including the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) as a 4-year-old. He earned $3,529,412 for his owners and trainer Barclay Tagg. Funny Cide was named champion 3-year-old male of 2003.

After his retirement from racing in 2007, Funny Cide served as Tagg’s stable pony, but recently, infirmities from his racing career made it difficult for the horse to continue in that capacity, prompting his retirement to the Horse Park.

Knowlton thanked Tagg; Tagg’s assistant, Robin Smullen; Funny Cide’s regular jockey Jose Santos; Funny Cide’s fans; and the Horse Park.

“We are thrilled this will be his retirement home,” Knowlton said. “It is an honor to be here today. I know he’ll get the best care in the world.”