07/01/2007 11:00PM

Funny Cide comes to his people


Racing fans in western New York state have extra incentive to go out to the racetrack for Wednesday's holiday card at Finger Lakes.

Funny Cide, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner in 2003, is coming to the Farmington, N.Y., track for the 1 1/8-mile Wadsworth Memorial Handicap.

Track management, with the endorsement of local horsemen, agreed to double the purse of the Wadsworth to $100,000 in order to lure Funny Cide to upstate New York, where the former champion

3-year-old is extremely popular, according to Jack Knowlton, one of the six partners who make up the Sackatoga Stable which owns the

7-year-old gelding.

"We got a lot of support from New York state in general, but particularly from the Watertown, Syracuse, and Rochester areas," Knowlton said. "The more people that get exposed to a champion racehorse, the better it is for the game."

Chris Riegle, Finger Lakes president, said he expects a crowd of 6,000 to 8,000. In comparison, Finger Lakes drew about 4,000 people for its Memorial Day holiday program.

Although Funny Cide isn't nearly as fast as he was during his 3-year-old season and is winless in his last six starts, Knowlton said he feels the horse is far from finished.

"He's healthier and sounder than he's ever been," Knowlton said.

Citing a four-furlong move in 47.20 seconds on Thursday, Knowlton said: "Just look at his works. His last workout was not only a bullet, but the second-best work that day was by Invasor. Everything he shows tells us he still wants to be a racehorse."

Knowlton said the right level for Funny Cide these days appears to be races with purses between $75,000 and $100,000, preferably at 1 1/4 miles.

According to Knowlton, Funny Cide would have returned to Woodbine to defend his title in the Grade 3 Dominion Day, but since the Canadian track has switched to Polytrack and the gelding ran poorly over a similar surface this spring at Keeneland, that option was ruled out.

One other out-of-town race that Knowlton said looks appealing is the $100,000 Kelso, a 1 3/16-mile race at Delaware Park on Sept. 29.

As for the Wadsworth, the only real threat to spoil Funny Cide's visit looks like Johnie Bye Night. A

5-year-old who is 4 for 4 at Finger Lakes, Johnie Bye Night won last year's Wadsworth by leading wire to wire. He stretches out off an easy win in the George W. Barker May 28.