LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Funny Cide rolled to victory in the Kentucky Derby (search) on Saturday in an upset over favorite Empire Maker, becoming the first gelding to win America's greatest race in 74 years.
The win turned the tables on the highly touted Empire Maker, who beat Funny Cide by a half-length in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 12.
Funny Cide (search) is the first gelding since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929 to win the Derby. Since then, 74 geldings have tried and failed.
"People just didn't believe in this horse because he is a gelding," said jockey Jose Santos (search), who completed his seventh Derby attempt. "This is an excellent horse. I can't believe we won the Kentucky Derby."
Funny Cide held off Empire Maker by 1 3/4 lengths, making his decisive move midway on the final turn.
As they turned for home, Funny Cide, who went off with odds of 12-1, was between Peace Rules on the inside and Empire Maker on the outside. With Santos urging him on, Funny Cide began to draw clear and covered the 1 1-4 miles in 2:01.19, a relatively fast time.
"We're coming back with the Kentucky Derby trophy, back to New York, back home," Santos said.
Funny Cide is the first horse New York-bred horse to win the Derby. Trainer Barclay Tagg made Derby history of his own, becoming the first trainer to win on his first Derby try since Cam Gambolotti won with Spend a Buck in 1985.
Purchased as a yearling for $22,000 by Sackatoga Stables in upstate New York, Funny Cide paid $27.60, $12.40 and $8.20. Empire Maker, with Jerry Bailey aboard, paid $5.80 and $4.40. Peace Rules was a head behind his stablemate and returned $6.
In earning $800,200 for his first victory this year in four tries, Funny Cide boosted his winnings to $1,239,385.
Though Bobby Frankel finished second and third with his powerful Derby entry and had three wins and a second on the day's undercard, he's still winless in Triple Crown races.
"It wasn't meant to be," Frankel said. "That's all I can say. The other horse ran a good race and he beat me."
Empire Maker ruled the backstretch Derby week, and not just because he was the overwhelming favorite. When the colt returned from a jog Tuesday, he was favoring his right front foot.
That's when the media circus began, with crowds gathering outside Frankel's barn every morning for injury updates. With the Derby, any nick to the favorite becomes big news.
But by Friday, Frankel proclaimed Empire Maker ready to win the Derby: "Bet against him at your own risk," he said. "He's going to run good. Don't worry about it."
It all ended with the Derby favorite's jinx very much intact.
Since Spectacular Bid won in 1979, only one favorite — Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 — has come through.