10/02/2004 12:00AM

Funny Cide gets last laugh

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Funny Cide and Jose Santos roar by longshot Newfoundland in deep stretch of Saturday's $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park.

ELMONT, N.Y - The gutsy gelding is back.

Funny Cide, who appeared to be backing up around the far turn, showed why he is called the gutsy gelding by rallying from fourth in the stretch to win the $1 million by three-quarters of a length over longshot Newfoundland. It was one length back to The Cliff's Edge in third.

Evening Attire, Bowman's Band, Love of Money and Domestic Dispute completed the order of finish.

It was the first victory for Funny Cide - last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner and 3-year-old champion - since he won the Grade 3 Excelsior Breeders' Cup Handicap at Aqueduct in April. It was his eighth win from 20 starts and it pushed his careering earnings past $3.1 million.

The victory also earns the New York-bred Funny Cide a shot at the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 30 at Lone Star Park. Funny Cide finished ninth in the Classic last year. Trainer Barclay Tagg said he told the owners, the Sackatoga Stable, that "if he gets beat in this race - even an inch - I don't want to go to Texas . . . I said if he wins we'll go.''

It was a strange trip to the winner's circle for Funny Cide. After breaking alertly under Jose Santos, Funny Cide tugged Santos to the neck of the early pacesetter Love of Money, the slight 5-2 favorite over Funny Cide.

Santos wrangled Funny Cide back off the pace, but shortly thereafter Funny Cide took Santos to the lead before Love of Money went back in front 6 1/2 furlongs from home.

At the half-mile pole, Newfoundland, under Edgar Prado, came outside of Funny Cide and went to put the pressure on Love of Money. At that point, Santos took a hold of Funny Cide, and at the three-eighths pole it appeared as if he was dropping back. Even track announcer Tom Durkin said, "Funny Cide is stopping."

"I thought he was done," Tagg said.

Said Santos: "I was not giving them the chance to pinch me between horses. When he's on the outside he's a more brave horse.''

The Cliff's Edge came to Funny Cide's outside at the quarter pole and those two moved together in the stretch. At the eighth pole, Love of Money was done and Newfoundland was the leader. But Funny Cide continued on to outfinish Newfoundland and The Cliff's Edge. Funny Cide covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.44 and returned $7.60 as the second choice.