10/19/2005 11:00PM

BC Mile: Funfair finds U.S. turf to liking

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Funfair, with Edgar Prado up, wins the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont on Oct. 2. He has won all three of his starts in the U.S. this year.

Americans who stay in touch with overseas racing usually can name three or four of the best milers in Europe. But let's see a show of hands from all the Europhiles in the crowd: How many of you had heard of Funfair before this year?

Funfair, a 6-year-old, made his first 13 starts in England. He won three times, but did not even rate as a Group 3-class animal. He had a layoff of more than a year and compiled a record of no wins, one second, and one third from just three starts during 2004. And it was no wonder Funfair slipped with little fanfare into trainer Graham Motion's stable last winter.

Three races later, Funfair has yet to lose in the U.S. He passed a major class test winning the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap by a head over Artie Schiller on Oct. 2 at Belmont, and on Thursday he ships back to Belmont from Motion's base at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland for a start in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

The designer milers from Europe this year have been whittled down through attrition. Singletary is good right now, but if Funfair can find a way past favored Leroidesanimaux, he might have as good a chance as anyone.

"I really know very little about the horse's past," said Motion, who trains Funfair for the Cheveley Park Farm of Mr. and Mrs. David Thompson, prominent English owners. "I was sent this horse and a horse called Battle Chant. At first, I wasn't over impressed with Funfair. Battle Chant had shown a lot more in the morning. Funfair is a very kind horse, and he can fool you."

Funfair is a tiger when he races. After an easy allowance win at Delaware Park to start his season, he squeezed through on the rail to win the restricted Troy Stakes at Saratoga and rallied inside again to win the Kelso, an impressive performance in which Funfair had to chase a sizzling pace on a hard turf course that carried speed.

"I think that's what really impressed me, that he handled a really American-style race," said Motion. "They were ding-donging it, and he really had to run fast over very firm ground."

Motion said he wondered if a hard race would set Funfair back, but the horse appears unfazed. "He eats every thing you put in front of him," Motion said.

Funfair often works with Breeders' Cup Turf champion Better Talk Now, and the two may breeze together Sunday at Fair Hill. Then, a couple of more gallops, a van ride, one day of training in New York - and we will see just how much fun Funfair's people can have at the Breeders' Cup.