Funny Cide, the New York-bred winner of last year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I), returns to his native state Saturday for a start in the Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct.
The gelded son of Distorted Humor
, owned by Sackatoga Stable and trained by Barclay Tagg, has not started in New York since he failed in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) to sweep the Triple Crown.
So far this year at four, Funny Cide has won one of three races, his first start, an optional claimer at Gulfstream. He then ran third in both the Donn Handicap (gr. I) and New Orleans Handicap (gr. I).
Following the Excelsior, the plan is for Funny Cide to run next in the Pimlico Special (gr. I) at Pimlico on May 14, the day before the Preakness is run at that Maryland racetrack.
Funny Cide could have run instead in either the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) or Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II) this weekend.
"We talked about going to Oaklawn or staying in Florida, but this race made sense since he is going to be in New York for the next seven months,"said Jack Knowlton of Sackatoga Stable. "One of the nice things about this year is that you don't have to run in a particular race. As a 3-year-old, you are kind of obligated to run in the biggest races. This year, we can pick our spots as we please."
Knowlton is hoping the Excelsior will do for Funny Cide what the Wood Memorial did last year.
"The Wood was really his breakout race last year," said Knowlton, who will be busy with book signings once Sally Jenkins' "Funny Cide" subtitled "How a horse, a trainer, a jockey, and a bunch of high school buddies took on the sheiks and blue bloods...and won!" is released by Penguin Putnam later this month.
Funny Cide is the 120-pound highweight for the Excelsior meaning he will spot Evening Attire one pound. Evening Attire is 4-for-5 over Aqueduct's main track with his only loss
over the surface coming in the 2002 Excelsior.
The field, in post position order:
1. Loving, Jose Espinoza, 113
2. Evening Attire, Shaun Bridgmohan, 119
3. Funny Cide, Jose Santos, 120
4. Snake Mountain, Pablo Fragoso, 116
5. Ground Storm, Javier Castellano, 115
6. Host, Mike Luzzi, 114