05/01/2003 11:00PM

Derby runner profile: Funny Cide


STRENGTHS: The heart and soul of good handicapping is finding a horse who ran a superior race in defeat. Funny Cide's performance in the Holy Bull is a good example. Burdened with post 13, he unleashed a great run around the clubhouse turn (after hitting the gate at the start). He tried to get close to the pacesetters and began to fade from view. If Funny Cide lost the race by a large margin, it could have been forgiven, but he showed great strength in holding on bravely for fifth, losing by less than seven lengths. His subsequent effort in the Louisiana Derby displayed the ability to stay on well. What got lost in the shuffle regarding the Wood Memorial was the troubled start for several runners, including Funny Cide and Kissing Saint, while favored Empire Maker enjoyed clear sailing on the outside. The grandsire of Funny Cide, Forty Niner, might have been best in the 1988 Kentucky Derby if not for racing wide throughout after breaking from post 17.

WEAKNESSES: Lack of seasoning is one criticism that can be placed upon Funny Cide. He has started only six times and his first three efforts, all victories, were against New York-breds. His latest workouts were only a half-mile and longer distances would have been better preparation for Derby Day.

STRATEGY: The tough start of the Wood Memorial might have given Funny Cide an excellent education. The ability to lay close to the pace, an important weapon, seems to be the right strategy for this runner, who has never really trailed by much at the midway point of any of his races. An ideal race flow would be for Peace Rules and Indian Express to hook up early and for Funny Cide to be within a length or two of this pair before Jose Santos pushes the button at the right time.

VALUE: There are some wise guys holding Derby future tickets from Pool 1 on Funny Cide at 93-1. With the scratch of Kafwain and the report of a bruised hoof on favored Empire Maker, that 93-1 is looking mighty good. His placing in the Wood was no fluke and he was coming back at the end while Empire Maker still showed a bit of immaturity that day. At 12-1 or so, he seems worth inclusion in your bets.


SIRE LINE: A stakes-winning miler who sometimes stretched his speed to middle distances, Distorted Humor was last year's leading freshman stallion. Distorted Humor is by Forty Niner (Mr. Prospector), who was a fast-closing second in the 1988 Derby, losing by a neck to Winning Colors. With the exception of Belmont Stakes winner Editor's Note, Forty Niner's sons have not had an impact in the Triple Crown either as racehorses or stallions.

FEMALE FAMILY: A Darby Dan female family full of stamina influences. Empire Maker also descends from this classy family. Second dam Cherished Moment finished second in the Ashland Stakes.

PEDIGREE PATTERN: Funny Cide gets speed from Distorted Humor and broodmare sire Slewacide (who is closely related to the ill-fated sprinter Mr. Nickerson, as well as Synastry, Tax Dodge, and Slew the Coup). That speed is balanced by the presence of strong stamina influences, including Preakness and Belmont winner Little Current (by Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Sea-Bird), and Graustark, one of Ribot's stars. Will be on or near the lead and could very well last for a minor share.

- Pedigree profile by Lauren Stich