07/24/2009 11:00PM

Funny Moon does it the hard way

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Funny Moon wins the Coaching Club American Oaks.

ELMONT, N.Y. - With three furlongs remaining in Saturday's Gradeo1 Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont Park, Funny Moon appeared to be heading to the parking lot, while her seven rivals were gearing up for a stretch-long sprint to the finish line.

At the quarter pole, jockey Alan Garcia was able to straighten out Funny Moon and the filly persevered through the final three-sixteenths of a mile to win the $300,000 Coaching Club by a neck over Don't Forget Gil. It was a half-length back to Wynning Ride, who finished a half-length in front of Casanova Move. They were followed in the order of finish by even-money favorite Livin Lovin, Hightap, What a Pear, and Devotee.

The victory was the fourth from six starts for Funny Moon, and first in a Grade 1. In her only other Gradeo1 try, she finished eighth in the Acorn here on June 6. The win also capped a stellar Belmont session for trainer Christophe Clement, who won his 22nd race of the meet and his third Grade 1. Also, this was Clement's first Grade 1 win on the dirt.

"I've been saying all along this is the best horse on dirt we've trained since Dynever," said Clement, referring to the multiple graded stakes winner who finished third in the 2003 Breeders' Cup Classic. "I was really puzzled by the performance in the Acorn, but it doesn't matter anymore; she's a Grade 1 winner now."

Breaking from the outside post in the eight-horse field, Funny Moon was five wide and last while Devotee carved out fractions of 23.83 seconds for the quarter, 47.11 for the half-mile, and 1:10.76 for six furlongs. At the three-eighths pole, it appeared as though Garcia was having trouble with Funny Moon and might actually pull her up.

"She didn't want to make the turn, she wanted to keep going straight," Garcia said.

When Funny Moon finally navigated the turn, Garcia got busy on the filly and she responded to his right-handed whip, striking the front about 20 yards out while able to outfinish Don't Forget Gil. Funny Moon, a daughter of Malibu Moon owned by Mrs. Wilson McNeely III, covered the 1 1/4 miles in 2:02.44 and returned $17.20 as the fifth choice.

"All the time when I hit her she was giving it to me," Garcia said. "I said let me try a little harder and my filly give me the best she can. The only problem was the turns, she didn't want to make that turn."