On a wet day more suitable to ducks than people, aptly named Funny Duck posted a major upset in the $300,000 Pat Day Mile presented by LG&E and KU (G3) on the Kentucky Derby Day card May 5 at Churchill Downs.
Longshot Lombo took charge out of the gate while pressured first by Smart Remark and then Greyvitos as the 14-horse field completed the first half-mile in :45.53. The group of 3-year-olds contended with sloppy conditions from a day-long rain that was heavy at times.
New York Central took control rounding the turn for home while Funny Duck, off at odds of 39-1 and stumbling at the start, raced near the rail. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. shifted Funny Duck out, split horses with three-sixteenths remaining, and launched a sustained drive that resulted in a 4 3/4-length victory in a final time of 1:37.16.
“We had a great trip,” Hernandez said. “We just went out there. There was no pressure with the horse. He stumbled a bit leaving there. I think it worked to his advantage because when he got up, he turned off for me. We were able to find a nice, smooth rail trip and had to go around only one horse. He traveled like a winner the whole way. It was a great race for him.”
Mask, the 5-2 favorite who was undefeated in two starts, including the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park, contended until the turn before tiring to finish eighth.
The winner returned a whopping $81.40, $36.60, and $14.20. New York Central held second at odds of 31-1 and returned $27.80 and $12.40. Givemeaminit paid $10 to show. The top two combined for a $2 exacta of $1,753.60, and a $1 trifecta returned $17,138.50.
“He ran real well. We felt good,” trainer Steve Asmussen said of runner-up New York Central. “He handled an off track real well. He showed a good side of himself. He made a pretty quick move, but (Lombo) was getting out, and I think he wanted to get away from him.”
A chestnut son of Distorted Humor making his seventh career start for Brad Kelley’s Calumet Farm and trainer Rusty Arnold, Funny Duck improved to 2-2-0 in seven starts, his second on the main track. The victory increased his earnings to $214,040.
Seventh in a dirt debut at Churchill Downs last fall, the colt was unplaced in his first grass start, also at a mile, before finishing second twice on turf. Funny Duck broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park in February in a mile turf test and came into the Pat Day Mile off a seventh-place effort in the Kentucky Utilities Transylvania Stakes (G3T) over a yielding turf course at Keeneland.
Arnold said owner Kelley gets credit for the decision to run Funny Duck on dirt again.
“Mr. Kelley called and said, ‘I would like to try this horse on the dirt again.’ We were set for running him in a turf race, and we said, ‘OK,’ and we tried him on the dirt again. So he gets all the credit because we would have been in the turf race.
“We love the horse. He had really become leaps and bounds better through the winter. His last race (Transylvania Stakes), he had some traffic issues. We liked the horse, but he got good on the turf and some trainers tend to stick with it, and when he said to go to the dirt, we did. He had a great work here last week. We do think he likes the mud, too, so it worked out great. It’s going to open up a whole lot of races, obviously, for him now.”
Bred in Kentucky by SF Bloodstock, Funny Duck was produced from the stakes-winning Seattle Slew mare Slow Down, who has also produced French group 3 winner Slow Pace as well as Segway, who placed in two grade 2 stakes.
Consigned to sales as a weanling and yearling, Funny Duck was bought back for prices of $120,000 and $65,000 before finally being purchased by Calumet for $110,000 from Kirkwood Stables at the 2017 Ocala Breeders’ Sales March auction of 2-year-olds in training.