Updated on 09/17/2011 1:20PM

Funny Cide beats Evening Attire

Funny Cide makes his New York homecoming a winning one with a half-length tally over Evening Attire in the Grade 3, $200,000 Excelsior Handicap at Aqueduct on Saturday.

OZONE PARK, N.Y. - It was a happy homecoming for Funny Cide and his connections on Saturday at Aqueduct as last year's dual-classic winner and champion 3-year-old held off a late charge from Evening Attire to win the Grade 3, $200,000 by a half-length.

It was eight lengths back to Host in third. Ground Storm and Loving completed the order of finish.

Funny Cide, the first New York-bred to win the Kentucky Derby, became the first Derby winner to win the Excelsior since George Smith, the 1916 Derby winner, won the 1918 Excelsior. More importantly, it was Funny Cide's first stakes win since last year's Preakness.

"He needed to win to make the New York people happy," said winning rider Jose Santos.

A crowd of only 5,586 turned out at Aqueduct to watch Funny Cide's first race in New York since Empire Maker foiled his Triple Crown bid in last June's Belmont Stakes.

Funny Cide won the Excelsior over a muddy Aqueduct main track that was favoring speed all afternoon. That, and the slow early fractions, helped negate Evening Attire's advantage of running over a wet track that he relishes.

Though Funny Cide broke alertly, Santos was content to concede the early lead to Host, under Mike Luzzi. Santos guided Funny Cide outside of Host and was within a length of that Chilean-bred champion through fractions of 23.85 seconds, 48.10, and 1:12.17. Funny Cide took over from Host leaving the five-sixteenths pole and opened a two-length advantage by midstretch. Evening Attire, who had to race closer to the pace than he prefers, made a run at Funny Cide, but could not get by.

Funny Cide, a son of Distorted Humor owned by the Sackatoga Stable, covered the nine furlongs in 1:49.57 and returned $4.60 as the favorite.

"I was letting him go free today," Santos said. "He broke real good, but Luzzi had other intentions. He wanted to go to the lead, so I backed off him and I put [Funny Cide] on the outside, like in the third or four path. When I picked him up at the three-eighths pole, he really finished good."

Barclay Tagg, the winning trainer, said he liked the way Funny Cide dug in, especially over a track Tagg doesn't believe his horse likes.

"I know everybody thinks he's a mudder, but I think he likes a wet-fast track I didn't think he'd like this track that much," Tagg said. "I think it was a little laborious for him. At least he did it. He's got a lot of class."