07/14/2010 6:28PM

Hard to look past D' Funnybone in Carry Back


MIAMI – Several weeks ago, when trainer Rick Dutrow first confirmed he was sending D’ Funnybone to Calder for Saturday’s $200,000 Carry Back Stakes, he asked what the race looked like. When told not to worry, that D’ Funnybone would likely be the 3-5 favorite to win the Grade 2 stakes, Dutrow replied, “I’d rather be 1-5!”

It looks like Dutrow will get his wish.

D’ Funnybone figures to be the shortest priced favorite on Saturday’s Summit of Speed program and perhaps the shortest priced favorite in the 11-year history of the event. Only four other 3-year-olds could be rounded up to take on D’ Funnybone, a five-time Grade 2 winner,and two of those are stablemates from the barn of trainer Milt Wolfson.

The six-furlong Carry Back will be a homecoming for D’ Funnybone, who began his career at Calder last summer with trainer Joe Calascibetta. After winning his debut by seven lengths and finishing second behind local division leader Jackson Bend in the Frank Gomez Memorial on the 2009 Summit of Speed card, D’ Funnybone was purchased privately by owner Paul Pompa Jr. and turned over to Dutrow.

D’ Funnybone, a son of D’Wildcat, returned quick dividends and vaulted to the top of the national 2-year-old division with lopsided victories in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special and Belmont’s Grade 2 Futurity before ending his juvenile campaign by finishing 13th and last after pressing the pace in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

D’ Funnybone bounced back to win three of his first four starts at 3 – all Grade 2 races at seven furlongs – beginning with Gulfstream Park’s Hutcheson and Swale, and most recently Belmont Park’s Woody Stephens, in which he easily handled a compact but solid field that included runner-up Discreetly Mine.

Dutrow is using the Carry Back as a stepping-stone for his primary goal for D’ Funnybone this summer, the Grade 1 King’s Bishop at Saratoga on Aug. 28.

“This race is perfect timing for the King’s Bishop but we’re also coming down there for the money,” said Dutrow. “Another main reason for making the trip is that we know he likes the racetrack.”

All four of D’ Funnybone’s seemingly overmatched rivals in the Carry Back are locally based. In addition to the Wolfson duo of Bernie the Maestro and Peace at Dawn, the lineup is rounded out by Coffee Boy and Dream of Atlantis.

Coffee Boy outfinished a game Dream of Atlantis to capture the six-furlong Unbridled Stakes after having finished second around two turns behind Bernie the Maestro in the Ride the Rails overnight stakes.

Both Bernie the Maestro and Peace at Dawn are cross entered against older horses in Saturday’s Bob Umphrey Turf Handicap.

Azalea: Pica Slew gets tested for class

Local favorite Pica Slew will take on seven more experienced rivals, led by Buckleupbuttercup and Rapport, in the $150,000 Azalea, the 3-year-old filly counterpart to the Carry Back.

Pica Slew has won each of her last two starts, including the Leave Me Alone overnight stakes in which she barely worked up a sweat, cruising from start to finish to a 1 3/4-length victory while winning in hand and earning a career-best 91 Beyer Speed Figure.

The speedy Pica Slew may have to deal early with trainer Bob Baffert’s California invader Rapport, who comes into the Grade 3 Azalea off back-to-back victories. Both of those wins came over the artificial surface at Hollywood Park, so her ability to handle dirt will be a key on Saturday.

A lively pace would enhance the chances of Buckleupbuttercup, winner of the Grade 3 Eight Belles on May 1 at Churchill Downs. Buckleupbuttercup exits a fifth-place finish in the Grade 1 Acorn.

“She’s doing super,” said Buckleupbuttercup’s trainer, Eddie Kenneally. “She ran great in the Acorn and she’ll really benefit from the race, especially if there’s some pace in here. Six furlongs may not be her best distance but it shouldn’t be too short if the race sets up right for her.”

Bob Umphrey: Slight edge to Lord Robyn

The five-furlong Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint lured a field of nine, including stablemates Bernie the Maestro and Peace at Dawn, both of whom are questionable to run in this spot. The evenly matched lineup is led by the multiple stakes winner Lord Robyn, who finished sixth in the 2009 Umphrey and is coming off a game first-level optional claiming victory in a race decided over a sloppy track.

Other key contenders include the New York-based Tahoe Warrior, Chihulykee, Square Deal, and Safety Squeeze.

◗ Awesome Feather, Pretty Extravagant, and Because I Like It top the list of nine 2-year-old fillies making their stakes debuts in the $100,000 J J’sDream at 5 1/2 furlongs. Pretty Extravagant is one of three fillies in the race for trainer Bill Kaplan, along with debut winners Greatest Dream and Cool Vixen.

◗ Little Drama, Big Drama’s baby brother, is one of 10 2-year-old colts and geldings set to contest the $100,000 Frank Gomez Memorial. Little Drama, who finished a troubled second in his only start, is among the major players, along with maiden winners Prince of Danger, Grande Shores, and Alley Oop Oop.