HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Jockey Jose Santos said Funny Cide is getting stronger and approaching the form that earned him victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness as the horse prepares to race today at Gulfstream Park.
Funny Cide, with Santos riding, will make his first start as a 4-year-old as the favorite in a 7-furlong, $46,000 allowance/optional claiming race on today's card.
A field of seven was entered, with Funny Cide racing under allowance conditions. He will open as the 4-5 favorite in the field of 4-year-olds and older. The race would serve as a tuneup for the $500,000 Donn Handicap, at 1 1/8-miles, Feb. 7.
Funny Cide finished ninth in his last race, the Breeders' Cup Classic Oct. 25.
"I could tell when I worked him that he was bigger and stronger and more mature than last year," Santos said yesterday. "I'd say he's within 85 percent of the way he was when he won the Derby."
Funny Cide, shipped to South Florida from New York in November, has been training at the Palm Meadows Training Center. He breezed a half-mile in 47 seconds Wednesday.
"He's worked very well and I think he's ready," said his trainer, Barclay Tagg. "We wanted a race that won't put a lot of stress on him.
"That's one reason to start him out sprinting instead of asking him to go two turns."
Santos will be reunited with Funny Cide, who was ridden by Julie Krone in the Breeder's Cup Classic.
Santos guided Funny Cide to victory in the Derby and Preakness, but the gelding was third in the Belmont Stakes in his Triple Crown push. Funny Cide then finished third in the Haskell Invitational before his poor performance in the Breeders' Cup Classic.
Funny Cide's main opposition includes Justification at 3-1, and the entry of American Style and Island Skipper at 4-1.
Funny Cide's last eight races have been stakes races. The son of Distorted Humor, owned by Sackatoga Stable, has career earnings of $2,099,385 with five wins in 11 starts.
Managing partner Jack Knowlton is among three of the 10 owners planning to travel from New York to Florida for the race.
The feature on the card is the $100,000 Spectacular Bid Stakes, a 6-furlong race for 3-year-olds.