Offlee Wild, defeating Funny Cide in Saturday's Massachusetts Handicap.

Offlee Wild, defeating Funny Cide in Saturday's Massachusetts Handicap.


Offlee Wild Nips Funny Cide in Mass 'Cap

Funny Cide gave his all, but he could not hold off the stalking Offlee Wild in a tremendous three-way stretch duel in the $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap (gr. II) Saturday at Suffolk Downs.

The Kentucky Derby and Preakness-winning gelding Funny Cide battled between The Lady's Groom and the late-arriving Offlee Wild down the lane. But it was Offlee Wild, under strong urging from jockey Edgar Prado who prevailed by a head over Funny Cide. The Lady's Groom was a head farther back in third. The winning time in the 1 1/8-mile handicap test was 1:49 on a fast track.

``The race set up perfect,'' Prado said. ``It was just a matter of finding room to get home. And he just kept on digging.''

Offlee Wild, a 4-year-old son of Wild AgainAlvear (by Seattle Slew), was 12th, 11 1/2 lengths behind Funny Cide in the 2003 Kentucky Derby (gr. I).But the Richard Dutrow-trained dark bay has put it together, winning his last two races since Dutrow took over training duties, his first victories since Gulfstream Park's Holy Bull (gr. III) at odds of 27-1 in January 2003.

Breaking from the inside post in the field of nine, Offlee Wild settled in behind the pacesetter The Lady's Groom, ridden by Hector Karamanos, who was pressured by a sharp Funny Cide and Jose Santos through tepid fractions of :24, :48 3/5 and 1:12 2/5.

Midway on the final turn, Offlee Wild swung out and battled to even terms on the outside of the front two in the final furlong. They completed the mile in 1:36 3/5.

The 2-1 favorite Funny Cide battled determinedly while seeking his biggest victory since last year's Preakness and was just edged in a game effort. Funny Cide carried top weight of 117 pounds and spotted the winner six pounds.

``It was a great horse race. That's all you can say,'' Funny Cide co-owner Jack Knowlton said. ``By any definition, he raced well. We're pleased. He showed us that he can still run with very good horses.''

After finishing eighth in the Skip Away Handicap (gr. III) at Gulfstream in March, owner Landson Robbins put Dutrow in charge of nursing Offlee Wild, a $325,000 investment, back to health.

Dutrow, who took over the training duties from Thomas V. Smith, said the horse had problems with his hind end and feet.

``He was a dead horse. When we picked him up, he had no life in him,'' Dutrow said. ``I'd go into his stall and he just didn't care. But after six or eight weeks ... he started showing a lot more signs of life. Whenever you pick up horses, that's what you want to see.''

Offlee Wild picked up a winning share of $300,000 for his fourth triumph in 14 starts. He has now banked $523,825 for owner Az Azalea Stable.

Gygistar was bottled up on the inside into the stretch, angled out four wide for Joe Bravo to rally into contention, but did not go on, finishing a half-length behind.

Evening Attire was fifth, followed by Sarava, Rogue Agent, Basil's Rhythm and On the Game.

The second choice, Offlee Wild paid $8.40, $3.80 and $3.20. Funny Cide returned $3.40 and $2.60. The Lady's Groom was $3.40 to show. The exacta was worth $38.40.

New England's biggest horse race, the Mass 'Cap was first run in 1935 and has included such luminaries as Seabiscuit, War Admiral, John Henry and Cigar. It was canceled last year for financial reasons, but its return for 2004 drew a crowd of 17,280 to Suffolk Downs -- the biggest crowd at the track in four years, many of them hoping to see Funny Cide join that list.

Instead, Funny Cide lost for the seventh time in nine tries since winning the first two legs of the 2003 Triple Crown. On the other hand, the New York-bred gelding has finished in the money in seven of those races.

``There were so many Funny Cide fans,'' Knowlton said. ``Obviously, he's got a following. Wherever he goes, he's a fan favorite, and people go out to see him.''

(Chart, Equibase)