As the snow and ice fell in upstate New York this week, Jack Knowlton was watching it all unfold — from the weather reports on his hotel room television.
Knowlton was in Tucson, Ariz. attending the 35th annual Symposium on Racing and Gaming, presented by the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program.
“It’s a nice little diversion,” Knowlton said in a telephone interview. “It’s the one conference I go to every year, and it’s a good break for four days out of the Northeast.”
Knowlton was scheduled to return to a frozen Saratoga Springs on Friday night.
“All good things must come to an end, right?” he said.
Managing partner for Sackatoga Stable, Knowlton experienced a similar feeling last week, when he left Funny Cide behind at his new home in the Kentucky Horse Park’s Hall of Champions in Lexington.
After 11⁄2 years as a stable pony for trainer Barclay Tagg, the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner was formally retired from racetrack duty.
“It’s bittersweet,” Knowlton said. “We were spoiled rotten having him six weeks in Saratoga every year, and going down to New York to see the races, we could always see him at Belmont. I’d even see him when I was in Florida off and on in the wintertime.
“I’ll miss that easy access, but I’ll get to see him probably two or three times a year. It’s going to be a fabulous place for him. All his old fans and an awful lot of new people are going to get access to him, so that’s going to be nice. They’ll have a real nice display in the museum down there. It’s going to turn out to be a good thing.”
Funny Cide arrived at the Horse Park on Dec. 5, joining 1987 Derby winner Alysheba, two-time Horse of the Year Cigar and Da Hoss, who won the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Mile after having one race in two years.
Hundreds of fans and a horde of media braved the cool weather to welcome Funny Cide, a gelded New York-bred son of Distorted Humor who was foaled at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in Saratoga. Anne McMahon joined Knowlton in attendance.
“They got him out and he walked around like a good horse,” Knowlton said. “He performed like a champion.”
Bred by WinStar Farm, Funny Cide won 11 of 38 starts in six seasons, including the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at 4, and earned $3,529,412 for his working-class ownership group that included six high school buddies from Sacketts Harbor.
The champion 3-year-old male of 2003, Funny Cide won his final start, the $100,000 Wadsworth Memorial Handicap at Finger Lakes on July 4, 2007.
Tagg kept Funny Cide around as the most famous stable pony in racing history, but a nagging back injury necessitated his full retirement. WinStar, located in Versailles, Ky., was part of the initial discussion.
“We had talked to the WinStar folks,” Knowlton said. “They had said a couple years ago that when the time comes when we’re interested in placing him somewhere, they’d certainly want to talk about it. When Barclay called me a few weeks ago and said he thought it was time to go on to his real retirement, I called Doug Cauthen at WinStar.
“The more we talked about it, the more we came to the realization that it was probably going to be a pretty overwhelming reponse to him, wherever he was going to be. WinStar is only open to the public three days a week, and isn’t really geared up to have the traffic that would probably occur.”
From there, Team Funny Cide turned to the Horse Park.
“They just jumped at it, thinking it would be a great thing for them and a nice draw,” Knowlton said. “It all worked out well. It is just an amazing place.”
Funny Cide’s legacy, which has included his own beer, wine and ice cream, could grow even more at his new home.
“The Horse Park is going to have the World Equestrian Games in 2010, and they’re talking about having 900,000 people in 10 days,” Knowlton said. “Funny Cide will be a pretty popular guy.”
Although Sackatoga is keeping a lower profile these days, the stable remains very active.
“We’ve got a full sister to Gold and Rosen named Won Token,” Knowlton said. “She’s down in Florida and should start fairly early
in the Gulfstream meet. She’s a 3-year-old, and we don’t know what she’s going to be yet.
“We’ve got a couple horses we bought this summer just being broken and getting their initial training, a colt by Strategic Mission and a filly by E Dubai. You’re always hopeful. Hope springs eternal, as long as you’ve got some young horses in the barn.”
Peppers Pride brings her career unbeaten streak to opening day at Sunland Park in New Mexico on Sunday.
Trained by Joel Marr, the 5-year-old mare is entered in the $125,000 New Mexico State Racing Commission Handicap. She worked three furlongs in 37 seconds at Sunland on Tuesday.
Track officials on Sunday plan to hand out posters of Peppers Pride winning a race at Sunland, which opened its meet on Friday.
Peppers Pride is 19-0 with lifetime earnings of just under $1 million. She set the modern-day North American record for consecutive wins by a thoroughbred with her 17th in a $35,000 optional claimer Oct. 4 at Zia Park.
ON THIS DATE
In 1986, Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux had his first career stakes win, aboard Godbey, in the Maryland City Handicap at Laurel Park.
West Virginia-based Researcher will break from the rail in a field of five for today’s Grade III $100,000 Queens County Handicap for
3-year-olds and up going 11⁄16 miles at Aqueduct.
Researcher is 6-for-10 lifetime on dirt, winning the $125,000 Mountaineer Mile Handicap last month in his most recent start. Multiple graded stakes winner Dry Martini, who took the Grade III Stuyvesant last month, is the 8-5 program
Calder Race Course serves up four stakes on today’s Grand Slam card: the Grade II $150,000 La Prevoyante for females, and the Grade II $150,000 W.L. McKnight for males, both at 12 furlongs on turf; the Grade III $100,000 Kenny Noe at nine furlongs; and the Grade III $100,000 Fred Hooper at seven-eighths on the main track.
J’ray, trained by Todd Pletcher, goes after her third graded stakes win in the La Prevoyante. Closing in on $1 million in career earnings, the New York-bred has two wins and two seconds in four starts at Calder.
Yesbyjimminy takes a five-race win streak into the Kenny Noe. Aiming for his first graded score, he has won three small stakes, including the Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap last time out.
Grade I winner Presious Passion looks to defend his title in the McKnight, which he won last year at odds of 67-1. In his way are Grade III Hawthorne Derby winner Strait of Mewsina and multiple graded stakes winner Always First.
Finallymadeit, Dream Maestro, Actin Good and It’s a Bird, who ran 1-2-3-4 in the Carl Rose Handicap last month, hook up again in the Fred Hooper. Finallymadeit went gate to wire to win the Rose by more than six lengths.
Third in the BC Juvenile Fillies Oct. 24, Laragh returns to southern California to take on six others in today’s Grade I $250,000 Hollywood Starlet on Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track. Trained by John Terranova, Laragh is one of two stakes winners entered, having taken the Jessamine on Keeneland’s turf.
On Sunday, females 3 and up will go 10 furlongs in Aqueduct’s $75,000 Ladies Handicap, the oldest race in the country for fillies and mares, dating back to 1868. Julie B, who is 14-for-19 all-time at Charles Town, goes for her first victory outside of West Virginia.
A pair of British bookmakers have listed Kip Deville as the
4-1 program favorite for Sunday’s Group 1 $1.2 million Hong Kong Mile at Sha Tin. The race has drawn seven Group 1 winners and five Group 2 winners from seven countries, including defending race winner and Hong Kong Horse of the Year Good Ba Ba.
BC cutting funds
LEXINGTON, Ky. — The Breeders’ Cup will slash $4.5 million in co-funding of stakes races at North American tracks in 2009 because of the economic downtown.
The cutback will affect 121 stakes races for Breeders’ Cup-nominated horses at about 40 racetracks, spokesman Jim Gluckson said Friday. The Breeders’ Cup kicked in extra purse money to what a track already offered for those races.
The reduction won’t affect the two-day Breeders’ Cup, scheduled
for November at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif. The purse money of $25.5 million will remain the same as this year.
“Even with the difficult economic circumstances, the board was committed strongly to holding the line on championship purses,” Breeders’ Cup president and chief executive Greg Avioli said.
“While the financial results for the 2008 championships were solid, the combination of the economy and its effects on the sales and breeding segments of our business provides a challenging environment.”
Martin Panza, racing secretary at Hollywood Park in Inglewood, Calif., said the cutback would cost his track $400,000 worth of funding for six races during the spring-summer meeting, including the Shoemaker Mile, Gamely Handicap and Swaps Stakes.
“Certainly it’s hurt a little bit to lose that money, but in today’s economy, no matter what business you’re in, you have to expect things like that,” Panza said, noting that many North American tracks have reduced purse money because wagering is down this year. “Unfortunately, we’re not big enough to get bailouts.”
The Breeders’ Cup board of directors has reduced fees as a way to get more horses into the world championships.
Horses that were not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup as foals can get in for $100,000, while horses whose sires were not nominated can enter for $200,000 — a reduction of $50,000 for both fees.
The Breeders’ Cup will discontinue its supplemental nominations program that allowed non-nominated horses to enter a particular championship race by paying 9 percent to 15 percent of the purse.
The board also reinstated the 3 percent entry fees for championship races that were in place until 2005.
Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher said some purses at stakes races will be affected. The track, which will host the Breeders’ Cup Championships in 2010, received about $225,000 this year from the stakes program.
“That program has been very beneficial to Churchill Downs and we appreciate that it’s been there and it will have some impact on our stakes program,” Asher said. “We hope the economy turns around and we can have a solid Breeders’ Cup Championships in the fall.”
Asher said he did not expect the decision to affect any of the purses for the track’s Grade I races like the Kentucky Derby.
AROUND THE TRACKS
Aqueduct will take its annual holiday break following Sundays’ card and remain dark until Friday, Dec. 26. The track will be open for simulcasting with the exceptions of Dec. 24 and 25. . . .
Jeremy Rose, best-known as the rider of 2005 Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex, is moving his tack to Aqueduct for the winter, starting Dec. 26. Rose was also the champion apprentice of 2001. . . .
Thrice Worthy, whose nine consecutive victories is a modern-day steeplechase record, was euthanized this week due to complications from colic. He was 32. . . .
Tampa Bay Downs today kicks off its 2008-09 meet, which runs through May 3 and offers 26 stakes worth more than $2.7 million, led by the Grade III Tampa Bay Derby March 14. . . .
Stardom Bound, expected to be named champion 2-year-old female, had her first work this week since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, going a half-mile in :48.80 at Santa Anita. Purchased by IEAH Stables after the Breeders’ Cup, she is now trained by Bobby Frankel. . . .
Jockey Simon Husbands was suspended for one year by Woodbine stewards for not trying his best to win the third race on Nov. 30. Husbands finished second by three-quarters of a length to his brother, Patrick, who went on to capture his fifth track riding title. Simon Husbands planned to appeal his sentence, which was scheduled to begin this week. . . .
Douglas Whyte finished second in all three of his races, good for 18 points to win his third Cathay Pacific International Jockeys’ Championship at Happy Valley in Hong Kong. American-based Cornelio Velasquez won one race and finished third, while Garrett Gomez was fifth. . . .
Nicanor, the full brother to ill-fated 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, worked three furlongs in 38 seconds Dec. 5 at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida.