Without question, one of the most popular racehorses to take the track in the modern era is Funny Cide. Foaled on April 20, 2000, Funny Cide captured the hearts of race fans all over the world with a legendary run at the Triple Crown in 2003. Although Funny Cide fell short of making Triple Crown history, the fan favorite did become the first horse bred in New York to win the Kentucky Derby. He went on the win the Preakness Stakes before Funny Cide’s greatest rival, Empire Maker, overcame him in the Belmont Stakes. Another interesting bit of information regarding Funny Cide is that he was a gelding. He was the first gelding to win the Kentucky Derby since 1929.
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Funny Cide was actually bred at WinStar farm in Kentucky, but his actual birth occurred in Saratoga Springs, New York. For the purposes of racing, a horse is considered bred in the state where it is foaled. His sire was the outstanding Distorted Humor. At the time of Funny Cide’s foaling, Distorted Humor was not known to be a stellar sire. Since that time his offspring have performed remarkably well, making Distorted Humor one of the most sought after sires of the modern era. Other notable offspring include Drosselmeyer, Flower Alley, and Commentator. At the time Funny Cide was bred, the stud fee for Distorted Humor was a mere $12,500. After Funny Cide’s success, the fee rose as high as $300,000. Funny Cide was placed in a consignment sale at Saratoga. While he garnered some attention, a concern was that he possessed one undescended testicle. As a result, his sales price was a meager $22,000.
In 2002, Funny Cide was ready for racing. The riding duties were handed to jockey Jose Santos, a journeyman on the New York circuit. Funny Cide won his debut at Belmont Park by an astounding 14 ¾ lengths, a feat that immediately put him on the radar of many trainers and race fans. Just three weeks later, Funny Cide’s owners decided to test him in the Bertram F. Bongard Stakes at Belmont. Once again, the gelding demolished his competition and the die was being cast for a shot at the Triple Crown. Funny Cide had earned a huge 103 Beyer Speed Figure in the race, a number no other two-year-old in the country had managed to match.
Another stakes win followed and Santos made no secret of the fact that he though Funny Cide was Kentucky Derby material. Yet, even though Funny Cide garnered the honor of New York-bred Champion Two-Year-Old for his performances, no one seemed to be taking the horse seriously. That began to change in the early months of 2003. His first two outings were dismal performances at Gulfstream Park and the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, but in the Wood Memorial he would face his greatest rival for the first time. Empire Maker was entering the race off of a big win in the Florida Derby and many were already mentioning him as the probable Kentucky Derby favorite. He did not disappoint in the Wood Memorial, defeating Funny Cide by ½ length. It was Funny Cide, however, that many people believed ran the better race that day. The stage was set for the rivals to meet in Kentucky.
In the 2003 Kentucky Derby, Funny Cide defeated Empire Maker by 1 ½ lengths. Two weeks later, in a race beset by drama that included Empire Maker backing out of the race and then backing in again before coming out for good, Funny Cide took the track in the Preakness Stakes on a cold and wet day to win by 9 ¾ lengths, the second-largest margin of victory ever in the Preakness. His Beyer Speed Figure was 114. Going into the Belmont Stakes, hopes were high that Funny Cide would break the drought of many years and capture the Triple Crown.
Empire Maker returned in the Belmont to challenge a battle-weary Funny Cide and ultimately spoil his chances for a Triple Crown. Ten Most Wanted was second. Funny Cide could only manage a third place finish, but the battling gelding had won America’s hearts. He was rested for a couple of months and then made his return in August for the Haskell and again finished third. A ninth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Classic did little to diminish his achievements, and Funny Cide was named 3 Year-Old Male of the Year at the Eclipse Awards. Funny Cide continued to compete with moderate success until being retired in July of 2007.
Funny Cide is a somewhat rare occupant of a place in the annals of Triple Crown history. He never again achieved the greatness he did in the summer of 2003, but for those blissful few months he was America’s favorite horse. Crowds showed up in droves wherever he ran and cheered for a horse they perceived to be the underdog. Many of them could relate to Funny Cide the way people during the Great Depression were able to relate to Seabiscuit.
In retirement as a gelding, there were no fancy breeding sheds waiting for the former champion. Thanks to his popularity, however, Funny Cide was welcomed into residence at the famed Kentucky Horse Park. Upon the death of the legendary Cigar in 2014, Funny Cide was given his stall and paddock. This was a gesture of respect that validated Funny Cide’s place among horseracing’s royalty. He earned $3,529,412 in his racing career, the highest ever for a New York bred horse. Today, Saratoga Racecourse hosts the Funny Cide Stakes in his honor.
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