Updated on 09/17/2011 11:32AM

Funny Cide all alone at the end

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Funny Cide romps in the 128th Preakness Stakes Saturday at Pimlico and will shoot for Triple Crown.

BALTIMORE - Jose Santos, the rider of Funny Cide, waited until he got to the finish line to show there was nothing in his hand. He waited too long. He could have simply waved goodbye at the top of the stretch of Saturday's $1 million .

Funny Cide took command of Saturday's $1 million Preakness Stakes with a powerful rush with a quarter-mile remaining, then drew away in a thoroughly dominating performance, winning by 9 3/4 lengths in the 128th Preakness before an announced crowd of 100,268 at Pimlico Race Course.

The margin was the second largest in Preakness history. Survivor, who won the first Preakness in 1873, was a 10-length winner.

The victory was an emotional one for Santos and his family, who endured baseless charges in the Miami Herald that he may have ridden with an illegal electrical device in the Derby. The story was quickly discredited, but the pent-up emotion came pouring out after the race, with Santos's wife, Rita, and 8-year-old son, Jose Jr., crying tears of joy.

Midway Road, a 20-1 shot, rallied for second, three-quarters of a length in front of Scrimshaw, who beat Peace Rules by a nose for third.

"I thought he ran big," said Robby Albarado of his mount, Midway Road, "but all I could see was Funny Cide getting smaller and smaller."

Funny Cide won the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, and now heads to the June 7 Belmont Stakes with a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. The 25-year gap equals the longest drought of Triple Crown winners; there was 25 years between Triple Crown sweeps by Citation in 1948 and Secretariat in 1973.

Funny Cide, a gelding, is a son of Distorted Humor. He was bred in New York and will return to his home state seeking the elusive Triple Crown.

The owners of Funny Cide, the Sackatoga Stable that is headed by Jack Knowlton, earned $650,000 for the victory, but they are in line for a far richer day. If Funny Cide can win the Belmont, he will earn a $5 million bonus from Visa, the Triple Crown sponsor.

Funny Cide went off the 9-5 favorite and paid $5.80 after covering 1 3/16 miles in 1:55.61. A daily double bet combining Mineshaft in Friday's Pimlico Special with Funny Cide returned $18.80.

The Preakness was run over a track rated good. The surface was deluged with water on Friday, but the track was sealed before the races that day. Because of that, the water was unable to seep into the packed-down surface. The track was rated sloppy for Saturday's first race, was upgraded to muddy before the second race, and was upgraded to good midway through the card.

The track was not fast, but Funny Cide was. This was far and away the best performance of his career, proving that the 3-year-old gelding is thriving at just the right time. He was brought into the race in peak condition by trainer Barclay Tagg and assistant Robin Smullen.

"He's just done everything well," Tagg said. "Robin's done a super, super job. Everything's gone well."

As he did in the Derby, Funny Cide used his tactical speed to carve out a perfect trip. Funny Cide, starting from post 9 in the 10-horse field, bumped with New York Hero leaving the gate, and was floated out to the middle of the track during the first eighth of a mile because Peace Rules and his jockey, Edgar Prado, waited, in an appropriate tactical move, until late in the stretch to drop in.

When Peace Rules finally moved toward the rail, he found Scrimshaw already occupying that spot. Scrimshaw led by a head, with Peace Rules right outside him, after a quarter-mile in 23.37 seconds. Funny Cide tucked in third, just behind and to the outside of those horses.

As the field moved into the backstretch, Scrimshaw dropped back, leaving Peace Rules on the lead after a half-mile in 47.14 seconds. But Santos did not dawdle. He immediately let Funny Cide move up to challenge Peace Rules, and the top two choices began to pull away from the field.

Peace Rules led Funny Cide by only a half-length after six furlongs in 1:11.62, but Funny Cide appeared to be going the better of the two, because Prado already was urging Peace Rules. Midway Road was gaining along the rail, and Scrimshaw was beginning to re-rally after being taken to the outside by jockey Gary Stevens.

Peace Rules and Funny Cide had their own private match race for three furlongs, but then Funny Cide blew the race open. He came off the turn with a powerful turn of foot, led by five lengths with a furlong remaining, and coasted to the wire.

"I thought he had it in him to do that," Tagg said. "I thought he was going along in that direction. I was hesitant to say that."

Said Smullen, "I was very proud of him. I didn't think he would win with the authority that he did. I didn't expect that. That was wonderful."

- additional reporting by Matt Hegarty