12/05/2008 1:00AM

Funny Cide settling in at Horse Park

Email

LEXINGTON, Ky. - A crowd of about 150 fans and media braved freezing temperatures Friday to welcome the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Funny Cide, to his new home at the Kentucky Horse Park.

The 8-year-old Distorted Humor gelding retired last month from his second career as trainer Barclay Tagg's pony and will now reside in the park's Hall of Champions.

Funny Cide spent the week at Lexington's WinStar Farm, which bred him, before moving into the Hall of Champions stall once occupied by Bold Forbes and, more recently, Quarter Horse champion Sgt. Pepper Feature, who died in 2003.

Among those on hand at the welcome ceremony were Jackson Knowlton, managing partner of the Sackatoga Stable that raced Funny Cide; Anne McMahon of McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds, where Funny Cide was foaled; and Doug Cauthen of WinStar.

Knowlton said Funny Cide had adapted well to life as a stable pony but that a back injury he suffered in the 2005 Brooklyn Handicap had begun bothering him.

"He was never the same horse after that injury, but there wasn't anything the vets could pinpoint," Knowlton said. "Barclay said that in the last few months he was showing some signs that it was bothering him, and we wanted to make sure that, instead of having him work every day and having something really bad happen, that he have his real retirement."

Some of Funny Cide's fans traveled to the welcome ceremony from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in honor of their local hero, a fact that Knowlton remarked was attributable to the gelding's charisma.

"He's always had a kind of cockiness about him, like he was the man," he said. "He was something special. He knew who he was and what he accomplished."

Funny Cide might be putting his charm to good use in the near future. Knowlton said plans are in the works to potentially make the gelding an ambassador of sorts for Thoroughbred racehorse retirement programs, one of the issues in which Knowlton has taken an active interest.

Surrounded by the gelding's well-wishers as they milled around his stall and drank hot "Funny Cider" in the barn, Hall of Champions manager Cathy Roby said Funny Cide so far has not been difficult to handle, despite his longstanding reputation for toughness. He did rear and spin while parading at the ceremony when the crowd applauded for him, but other than those high spirits, "he's been just fine," Roby said.

The Hall of Champions staff already is discerning their newest resident's tastes and habits.

"He doesn't like carrots," Roby said of the former 3-year-old champion. "Or at least he didn't like the one I offered him. He loves peppermints, and they tell us he likes bread."

For his part, Funny Cide seemed contented with his new surroundings. Blanketed and returned to his stall after the official welcome, he alternately munched hay and stuck his head out of his stall's side window, which had a view of Da Hoss grazing in an adjacent paddock.

"We know he'll be visited here and get the greatest care," Knowlton said. "It was an honor to be invited to have Funny Cide here."

* The Ocala Breeders' Sales Company's winter mixed sale, set for Jan. 6-7, has a catalog of 613 horses. The catalog is available online at www.obssales.com, and hard copies will be in the mail next week, according to the company. The sale will open with a consignor-preferred session that includes 143 mares from Adena Springs, followed by an open session.

* Bloodstock auction site The Stallion Ticker is currently holding an online auction to benefit the Old Friends retirement facility in Georgetown, Ky. Seasons are available to such stallions as Lido Palace, Alysweep, and others, as well as signed prints, famous horses' halters, and other memorabilia. The auction at www.stallionticker.com ends Friday.