-- Funny Cide is New York's hero again.
The 4-year-old gelding stormed into the lead down the stretch and pulled away for a sweet victory in the rain in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park on Saturday.
And just like that, the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner had that elusive victory over the same wet racetrack where he suffered his cruelest defeat -- a loss in the Belmont Stakes that ended his Triple Crown bid.
"It's a great victory. I was hoping we would be able to reverse what happened last year," said Jack Knowlton, managing partner of Sackatoga Stable.
Funny Cide, with Jose Santos back aboard, won in highly unusual fashion. The New York bred took a brief lead early on, dropped back to third near the far turn and looked as if he was ready to fall out of contention before the field turned for home.
But Santos, who missed Funny Cide's last start while recovering from a broken arm, put his horse into a drive. Running between rivals, the horse fought his way past The Cliff's Edge, who was rallying on the outside, and Newfoundland, who was leading on the inside. Crossing the finish line with a three-quarters of a length victory, Funny Cide was cheered by the hometown crowd.
Funny Cide, second to Evening Attire in the Saratoga Breeders' Cup in his last start, had won just two of eight races this year, and was winless in three previous starts at Belmont.
Trainer Barclay Tagg said his horse needed an impressive win to earn a trip to the Breeders' Cup Classic at Lone Star Park in Texas on Oct. 30.
Mission accomplished. Tagg, all smiles for the first time in months, said another try at the BC Classic is next. Funny Cide ran ninth in the 2003 Classic at Santa Anita.
"I felt if we won, he'd go to the Breeders' Cup," Tagg said. "If he lost, even by an inch, I didn't want to go."
Owned by Knowlton and his lovable high school pals from upstate New York, Funny Cide ended a six-race losing streak in Grade 1 races that began with his loss in the Belmont.
"It's a big, big win," Tagg said. "This used to be the defining race of the year. We were looking forward to a good race from him."
The Gold Cup was one of four Grade 1 races on the card: Pico Central was sensational in taking the Vosburgh Stakes, Kitten's Joy won the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic and Riskaverse took the Flower Bowl Invitational.
But Funny Cide stole the show, covering 11/4 miles in 2 minutes 2.44 seconds, with Newfoundland second. The Cliff's Edge was third, followed by Evening Attire, Bowman's Band, Love of Money and Domestic Dispute.
Funny Cide, the 3-1 co-favorite with Love of Money, paid $7.60, $4.80 and $2.50. Newfoundland paid $11.60 and $5.50, and The Cliff's Edge returned $2.90.
The win was worth $600,000 for Sackatoga Stable and boosted Funny Cide's bankroll to $3,174,485.