LAUREL, Md. – His name evokes a smile, and though he has yet to register a win against open competition, make no mistake – Funny Guy is one serious racehorse.
Gatsas Stables, R. A. Hill Stable and Swick Stable’s Funny Guy is a five-time stakes winner against fellow New York-breds that owns six wins, six seconds and $638,645 in purse earnings from 17 lifetime starts.
The 5-year-old son of 2008 Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) winner Big Brown has fared well in the occasional foray into open company, including a runner-up finish behind Grade 1 winner Firenze Fire in the Vosburgh (G2) last fall at his home base of Belmont Park.
Funny Guy is entered to make his graded-stakes return in Saturday’s $250,000 General George (G3) at Laurel Park, where he is the 9-5 program favorite against a field boasting seven other stakes winners including Grade 3 winners Laki, Majestic Dunhill and Share the Ride.
The 45th running of the General George for 4-year-olds and up and $250,000 Runhappy Barbara Fritchie (G3) for females 4 and older, both sprinting seven furlongs, serve as the co-headliners on a nine-race Winter Sprintfest program featuring six stakes worth $900,000 in purses rescheduled from Feb. 13 due to weather.
Funny Guy has been at Laurel since last week under the supervision of Tonja Terranova, wife and assistant to trainer John Terranova. Though training has been intermittently interrupted by weather, John Terranova said Funny Got got in a “strong gallop” Wednesday morning.
“It’s all good. We’ll just do what we’ve got to do during the week,” he said. “I guess everyone else is in the same boat with the postponement. We’ll just ride the wave.”
The General George will be only the second time Funny Guy has raced outside of New York. The first came in the 2019 Oklahoma Derby (G3), when he ran sixth behind Owendale, third in that year’s Preakness, and runner-up Sleepy Eyes Todd, most recently fourth in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) Jan. 23 at Gulfstream Park and running in Saturday’s $20 million Saudi Cup.
“He’s been great. He’s honest, he does everything right. He’s been a fun horse to be around,” John Terranova said. “He’s versatile and just keeps coming back for more each time. He’s had a couple little circumstances where maybe the track got to him a little bit or it just didn’t set up quite right, but he’s always given us a big effort.”
One start prior to last year’s Vosburgh, Funny Guy wound up fourth by 2 ½ lengths in the Forego (G1) at Saratoga to Win Win Win, another veteran of the 2019 Triple Crown trail, and Grade 1 winner Complexity, the runner-up. The seven-furlong Forego was contested during a thunderstorm that rolled through at post time. In a sign of respect, Funny Guy was sent off as the favorite in the Forego and Vosburgh.
“The Forego was one of those circumstances with that horrific rainstorm we were in the middle of when they snapped the gate on us. Everybody rushed out to the track and it was an absolute deluge,” Terranova said. “You couldn’t even see them. It was like running through a river. He was down inside, just buried in there. The track took away from a lot of performances on that afternoon.”
Funny Guy’s stakes wins have come at distances from 6 ½ furlongs to the 1 1/8 miles of the Albany, which he captured by a neck in 2019 at Saratoga, earning him a shot in the Oklahoma Derby. Given some time off after that effort, he returned with back-to-back stakes wins in the one-mile Commentator and seven-furlong John Morrissey last summer.
In his 2021 debut, Funny Guy ran second as the favorite in the seven-furlong Say Florida Sandy Jan. 9 at Aqueduct, his first start since a neck triumph in the New York Stallion Series Thunder Rumble Nov. 22, also going seven-eighths at the Big A.
“The track was a little loose on him. He’s a big, heavy horse and winter tracks, they get cold, they get cuppy, they get loose and dry,” Terranova said. “He doesn’t really get his feet that far up off the ground so I think he struggled with it, having that quickness to him. It took it a little bit away from him the last start. Our jock said the same thing after getting off him.”
Funny Guy owns two wins and two seconds in five career tries at the General George distance, and is two-for-three on an off track. A second winter storm is scheduled to pass through the Laurel area Thursday into Friday morning.
“He’s certainly doing well coming into this. We’re just kind of like in this holding pattern, not much to do this week,” Terranova said. “He’s doing great. We’ve been looking forward to this race. Wet or dry, he’s been great. Everything’s good.”
Terranova has shipped in to Maryland and left with graded-stakes before, taking the 2019 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (G3) with Killybegs Captain. It was the trainer’s most recent of more than a dozen graded triumphs.
“We’ve been lucky down there and very fortunate that we’ve had some good success with our horses,” he said. “Hopefully it continues with Funny Guy.”
MJC Offering Advance Wagering on Saturday’s Saudi Cup Day Program
The Maryland Jockey Club is offering advance wagering at Laurel Park and through its off-track betting network including Pimlico Race Course for Saturday’s Saudi Cup Day program.
Advance wagering will be available on Races 1-8 from King Abdulaziz Racetrack, capped by the $20 million Saudi Cup featuring Maryland-bred Knicks Go, winner of the $3 million Pegasus World Cup (G1) Jan. 23 at Gulfstream Park.
Sites will open early Saturday for Saudi Cup Day wagering for Races 6-8 – the Saudi Derby (post time 11:10 a.m. EST), Riyadh Dirt Sprint (11:50 a.m.) and Saudi Cup (12:40 p.m.).
Live racing returns to Laurel Park Friday with a 10-race program starting at 12:25 p.m.
Photo: Funny Guy (Susie Raisher)