02/16/2013 5:34PM

Laurel: Unheralded filly Funnys Approval shocks favorite in Barbara Fritchie

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Jim McCue/Maryland Jockey Club
Funnys Approval gives rider Jose Vargas and trainer Jose Lopez their first graded stakes victory by upsetting the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at 21-1.

Eleven months after finishing last in a $15,000 maiden claiming race at Turfway Park, Funnys Approval became a Grade 2 stakes winner Saturday when she recorded a front-running victory in the $250,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at muddy Laurel Park.

 Sent to the front soon after the start by Jose Vargas, Funnys Approval turned back an upper stretch challenge from 6-5 favorite My Wandy’s Girl, holding that rival at bay to the wire to win by three-quarters of a length. Sent off at 21-1, Funnys Approval returned $45.80.

 My Wandy’s Girl finished second by 1 3/4 lengths over Withgreatpleasure.  Nicole H, runner-up in last year’s Barbara Fritchie, finished fourth and was followed in the order of finish by Ms. Cruisen’, Morrow Cove, Onepointhreekarats, and Celtic Chant. Dance to Bristol and Bold Affair scratched.

 The win was the fourth straight for Funnys Approval, a daughter of Outrageouslyfunny owned and bred by Bobby Rankin and trained by Jose Lopez, who won his first graded stakes as a trainer and second stakes overall.

“It’s still sinking in. It’s my biggest win,” an emotional Lopez said while being interviewed in the winner’s circle.

 The $150,000 first-place prize brought Funnys Approval’s bankroll to $196,379.

 It was the first graded stakes win for Vargas, who came to the U.S. from Peru in 2010 and who rides regularly at Mountaineer Racetrack, Turfway Park, and Presque Isle Downs.

 Funnys Approval, based at Turfway Park, had won three straight races - all at Mountaineer - and Lopez said he couldn’t find a race for the 4-year-old filly. When Lopez came to Laurel last week to run a horse, he checked with the racing office to see who was going in the Barbara Fritchie and he thought he would take a shot.

 “You got to be in it to win it,” said Lopez, who was further convinced to run when Funnys Approval worked a sharp half-mile at Turfway last Sunday.

 Funnys Approval had won two sprints over sloppy tracks so Lopez certainly didn’t mind when Laurel’s main track came up muddy on Saturday.

 Though Celtic Chant broke on top and My Wandy’s Girl was also away well, Vargas sent Funnys Approval in between those two to take the early lead through an opening quarter in 23.02 seconds and a half-mile in 46.46 seconds.

 Around the far turn, Irad Ortiz Jr. moved My Wandy’s Girl along the rail while Jeremy Rose had Onepointhreekarats on the move three wide.

 My Wandy’s Girl headed Funnys Approval at the three-sixteenths pole, but Funnys Approval, with right-handed encouragement from Vargas, re-rallied to get the win.

“I was worried that somebody was coming from behind,” Vargas said. “When I feel somebody inside of me I started sending and the filly came back again.”

Funnys Approval covered the seven furlongs in 1:25.29.

Ortiz, aboard runner-up My Wandy’s Girl, said the moderate pace cost his filly a chance to win.

 “The winner had an easy lead. Nobody really went after her,” he said. “I saw [Onepointhreekarats] move on the outside, then decided to wait a little to make one run. My horse picked it up pretty good but couldn’t catch the winner.”