10/16/2002 11:00PM

New York program lures WinStar mares


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Sleepy Hollow Stakes at Belmont Park on Saturday is a showcase for 2-year-old New York-bred colts and geldings, and the favorite for the race, Funny Cide, owned by Sackatoga Stable, appears to have the potential to reach center stage in open company. Unbeaten in two starts, Funny Cide ran a Beyer Speed Figure of 103 in his last start, the Bertram Bongard.

Funny Cide won the Bongard by nine lengths in stakes record time of 1:22.95. His Beyer Figure is equal to the highest recorded by a 2-year-old this year (Sky Mesa also ran a 103 in the Hopeful). That fact, coupled with his Bongard performance and his victory by 14 3U4 lengths in a maiden special, made Funny Cide a hot dark horse for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but his trainer, Barclay Tagg, has chosen the more conservative route for Funny Cide, a gelded son of freshman sire Distorted Humor.

Distorted Humor is in second place among freshmen sires of 2002 behind Elusive Quality. His best-known runner is the juvenile filly Awesome Humor, who won the Grade 1 Spinaway for WinStar, which stands Distorted Humor and owns a substantial interest in him. Both Distorted Humor and Elusive Quality stand in Kentucky, and Funny Cide is a New York-bred because of the progressive approach of his breeder, WinStar Farm, which sent his dam and several other mares in foal to Distorted Humor to foal in New York.

These foals were born at McMahon Thoroughbreds of Saratoga. "We had six foals from Distorted Humor's first crop," said Mike McMahon of McMahon Thoroughbreds. "WinStar owns shares in a couple of our stallions, and sending some of their mares to New York was a cooperative effort to help get the horse off the ground and give him some regional exposure to regional markets."

WinStar's vice president, Doug Cauthen, said that "a group of mares that were deemed to be less commercial went to New York. They were less valuable mares that we'd have sold, but instead of selling them cheap, we came up with the idea of helping to distribute some Distorted Humors into the New York program, which is the strongest in the country."

As a result, a half-dozen of Distorted Humor's first crop are New York-bred, and the mares were bred back to New York stallions, including Regal Classic, which WinStar had sent to stand in New York at the McMahons' family farm.

Sending mares outside WinStar's base in Kentucky was an experiment. Cauthen said, "We didn't make a lot of money with them, but the number one goal was to add commercial value to the stallion, and the goal was accomplished. The stallion got exposure and good representation."

WinStar's leadership was sufficiently pleased with the results of the marketing venture with Distorted Humor that they "did the same thing with some mares in foal to Victory Gallop the next year as well," Cauthen said.

The McMahons sold Funny Cide for WinStar at the Saratoga New York-bred preferred yearling sale in 2001, where he brought $22,000. "Funny Cide was one of the two best in that crop of yearlings, along with recent winner Rhythmic Motion," said McMahon.

One of Funny Cide's possible competitors in the Sleepy Hollow is Go Rockin' Robin, "who is also from the sales consignment and is from those first-crop mares we foaled for WinStar," McMahon said.

Tony Everard, who has New Episode Training Center in Ocala, Fla., bought Funny Cide at Saratoga. He then resold him privately to Barclay Tagg, acting for Sackatoga Stable. Tagg said the price was $75,000. Although Funny Cide appeared to be a racehorse with potential for early racing, he bucked shins and didn't start until Sept. 8.

Family ties

WinStar had acquired the dam of Funny Cide, the Slewacide mare Belle's Good Cide, as part of the Prestonwood Farm bloodstock when Ken Troutt and Bill Casner bought the Prestonwood operation from the Preston brothers. Belle's Good Cide was sold the year after producing Funny Cide, and the promising young racehorse is making the purchaser feel very lucky. After producing a Personal Flag filly in 2001, the mare was bred to Always Fair but came up barren and sold for only $3,500 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale in December last year. Bonita Farm was the buyer.

Bill Boniface, the farm's managing partner, said, "Belle's Good Cide is in foal to our stallion Mojave Moon and is due in January. He's by Mr. Prospector" - out of Miesque's Group 1-winning daughter East of the Moon - "and we're really excited about this horse. For his first book, he got 67 mares, with 61 in foal."

With the success of Funny Cide, the mare's second foal, people are taking a closer look at Belle's Good Cide. Boniface said that "she has good conformation, stands about 15.3 hands, and caught on one cover. She had some race ability too. Although she's listed as just a winner, she was fourth in two stakes. We've had a lot of offers on her the last few weeks, but it's nice to have a horse to root for."

Next year's breeding plans for Belle's Good Cide are undecided.