Funny How after her victory in the Broadway Feb. 12 (Chelsea Durand)
By Ryan Martin – NYRA Press Office
OZONE PARK, N.Y.— Adelphi Racing Club and Cutair Racing’s New York-bred Funny How rides a five-race win streak into her graded stakes debut in Friday’s 69th running of the Grade 3, $150,000 Distaff Handicap for fillies and mares 4-years-old and upward at Aqueduct Racetrack.
Funny How, a 4-year-old Overanalyze bay, enters the seven-furlong test off a triumphant stakes debut in the February 12 Broadway, defeating her Empire State-bred counterparts by 4 1/2 lengths under Katie Davis. Despite breaking a step slow and unable to establish her usual tactical position down the backstretch, Funny How was able to take command into the stretch drive after moving into the two-to-three path. She shook clear in the final eighth of a mile to triumph over the graded-stakes placed duo of Betsy Blue and Bank Sting. The victory garnered a career-best 86 Beyer Speed Figure.
Funny How began her hot streak in her Big A debut, breaking her maiden going six furlongs against open company in September over next-out winners Arrogant Lady and Kitten’s Appeal. She defeated fellow New York-breds in her following two efforts before stretching out to seven furlongs against open allowance company on January 7.
Trainer Ray Handal said Funny How has been taking considerable leaps forward with each race.
“She gets bigger and stronger every time she runs. She just keeps on growing, widening and strengthening. She was a good horse to start with and she’s turned into an absolute beast of an animal,” Handal said. “For her to win would definitely solidify what she’s been doing. We’re just giving her the shot that she deserves. She’s been beating up on New York-breds all winter and run through her ranks, so she deserves the chance to show what she can do against open graded stakes company. She couldn’t be doing any better going into it, so I’m excited.”
Handal spoke of how difficult it is for a horse at any level to be such a model of consistency.
“This is everyone’s dream,” Handal said. “You can go 5-for-5 with any horse and it would be spectacular, even in the claiming ranks. But to do it in allowance and stakes races is that much more impressive. It’s tough to show up like that every time you put them in the gate, and she does. We’re looking forward to next weekend.”
A victory would provide Handal with his first graded stakes victory.
“It would be special, especially for this ownership,” Handal commented. “Matt Cutair has been a big advocate for the Adelphi Racing Club, Jordan Zotts [Adelphi Racing Club Managing Partner] and those guys started it all. They’ve been so influential and have been with me from the very beginning. It would be special to win my first graded stakes for them.”
Bred by Hibiscus Stables, Funny How is a half-sister to multiple New York-bred stakes winner Funny Guy.
Davis, who also is in pursuit of her first graded stakes victory, will maintain the mount from post 7.
Trainer Rob Atras will saddle Robert A. Derr’s formful Rossa Veloce, who brags field-best earnings of $476,510 and a record of 15-9-4-2.
The 5-year-old Girolamo mare added “stakes winner” to her resume in the last out local Correction on March 11 and has finished no worse than second since being claimed by trainer Rob Atras in September five starts back. After capturing her debut for Atras in a state-bred optional claimer in October at Belmont at the Big A, she registered a field-best 102 Beyer in a November 13 open company allowance.
The Distaff will be Rossa Veloce’s first start going seven furlongs since June 2021, when finishing a distant sixth off a layoff against state-bred optional claiming company.
“We don’t really know if seven furlongs is her distance, but we don’t really want to ship her out of town either,” Atras said. “She runs so well here and she’s in good form. She’s always been a nice filly with some back class. She came out of form but we were able to get her back in a really nice spot where she’s able to get her confidence back up.”
Bred in the Empire State by John Scott Rogers, Rossa Veloce is out of the Hard Spun mare Spuntastic, and was purchased for $12,000 at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale.
Jose Ortiz, a three-time Distaff winner, will pilot Rossa Veloce from post 6.
Grade 1-placed Pass the Champagne makes her third start off an 11-month layoff, entering from a fourth-place finish as the favorite in the Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie on February 18 at Laurel Park.
The George Weaver-trained Flatter mare was a close second to eventual two-time Champion Malathaat in the Grade 1 Ashland in April 2021 at Keeneland, which was only her third lifetime start. Following a distant 12th in the next out Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, also won by Malathaat, she was away from action until the following February but returned on a winning note when defeating Gulfstream Park allowance company. She did not return until January when second in Tampa Bay Downs’ Wayward Lass on January 14 going 1 1/16 miles.
“It was good. It wasn’t ideal going two turns, but the race was there and she was ready,” Weaver said of the Tampa Bay Downs effort. “She was a little bit short of winning there, but it was a good comeback race. She’s had little small things here and there, and it definitely wasn’t the plan to have her on the shelf all the time.”
Breaking from post 1, Pass the Champagne will be ridden by Jose Lezcano.
Four-time Eclipse Award winning trainer Chad Brown will send out Klaravich Stables’ Gerrymander, who will make her first start since a distant eighth in the Grade 1 Cotillion on September 24 at Parx Racing. The 4-year-old daughter of Into Mischief is the lone graded stakes winner in the field, taking last year’s Grade 2 Mother Goose on June 25 at Belmont Park.
Manny Franco will ride Gerrymander from post 2.
Completing the field are the Jimmy Ferraro-trained pair of Easy to Bless [post 3, Jackie Davis] and Meraviglioso [post 5, Jaime Torres], as well as 10-time winner Hydra [post 4, Jose Gomez] and Mommasgottarun [post 8, Eric Cancel], who finished last-of-5 in Sunday’s Top Flight here.
The Distaff Handicap is slated as Race 7 on Friday’s eight-race program at the Big A. First post is 1:20 p.m. Eastern.