Funny How laughs off competition in Broadway

Sunday, February 12th, 2023

Funny How and Katie Davis cruise to the finish in Sunday’s Broadway Stakes at Aqueduct. NYRA Photo.

By Tom Law

Ray Handal was anxious to run Funny How a second time late in last year’s Saratoga Race Course meeting.

He’d watched the then 3-year-old Overanalyze filly come back from a few setbacks, finish a good third in her July 9 debut at Belmont Park and then train well later that month and in early August upstate. Handal had a race in mind for Funny How when The Saratoga Special came calling for its annual Fasig-Tipton Stable Tour on Whitney Day.

“Very typical of a first-timer that needed one from me,” Handal said of the filly’s debut. “I’m thinking she’ll move up a ton second time out.”

Funny How did move up, finishing third again on a sloppy track Aug. 26, and hasn’t lost since. She’s won five straight since that 4 1/4-length defeat, the most impressive victory coming in Sunday’s $100,000 Broadway Stakes at Aqueduct. Funny How not only extended her win streak in the 7-furlong Broadway, she landed her first stakes victory in her seventh start.

“She’s a filly that’s just overcome adversity from Day 1,” Handal, who trains Funny How for Adelphi Racing Club and Matt Cutair’s Cutair Racing, said after the Broadway. “She had some setbacks when she was younger. She had a soft tissue [issue] in her back ankle and we gave her the time off and she overcame all that.

“She just has tenacity and a will to win and an amazing fight to her. She’s overcome trips. She overcomes bad breaks like she did today. She finds ways to win.”

Katie Davis picked up her first stakes victory on the New York Racing Association circuit aboard Funny How, who won by 4 1/4 lengths over Betsy Blue and Bank Sting in 1:25.82 over the fast track.

Handal called the Broadway a “massive performance” for Funny How, a $120,000 purchase at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Eastern fall yearling sale. Bred by Hibiscus Stable, foaled at Waldorf Farm in North Chatham and out of the Distorted Humor mare Heavenly Humor, Funny How is a half-sister to multiple stakes winner and $638,645-earner Funny Guy, stakes winner Super Humor, stakes-placed $342,170-earner Three Jokers and five other winners.

Funny’s How’s people – members of Adelphi Racing Club and Cutair Racing – celebrate the 4-year-old filly’s first stakes victory Sunday. NYRA Photo.

The Broadway was Funny How’s second straight victory at 7 furlongs, along with an open-company allowance score Jan. 7 at Aqueduct under Davis. She also broke her maiden in open company during the Belmont at the Big A meet before back-to-back victories in the state-bred ranks last fall.

“I always thought she would be fine at the middle distances from seven-eighths or even a mile,” Handal said. “She won the sprints just because she’s so talented.”

Sent off as the 5-1 third choice behind 4-5 choice Bank Sting and the 5-2 Betsy Blue – two of the top older state-bred fillies and mares in training – Funny How found herself last of six through the opening quarter-mile after tossing her head at the start while pinched back between rivals at the break.

“When I warmed up with her, she threw a buck jump, so she was feeling really good,” Davis said. “She was eager to get out of the gate. I was OK that she didn’t break as well. I kept her calm and relaxed and made that one move with her while all the speed goes.”

Davis and Funny How raced into fourth as November Rein hit the opening half in :46.87, with Know It All Audrey and Honey Money in close pursuit. Bank Sting and Betsy Blue dropped toward the back of the field around the far turn, just as Funny How continued her sustained run into the lane.

Funny How took command outside the eighth pole, running away from Know It All Audrey and a back-pedaling November Rein, with Betsy Blue and Bank Sting starting to re-rally. Funny How cleared from there, widening her advantage in deep stretch. Betsy Blue edged Bank Sting by a head for the place spot, with Know It All Audrey 1 3/4 lengths back in fourth. Honey Money and November Rein completed the field.

“I’ve known her for a while since she came to the barn and I was galloping for Ray,” Davis said. “When I first got on her, Ray said, ‘You’re going to like this one’ and I said, ‘Do not take me off of her.’ We just got along really well. We understood each other.

“Every time I get on her and breeze her, she just keeps improving. Fillies sometimes go the wrong way, but this one just keeps improving. They did it right with her. They took the steps and moved her forward and didn’t break her heart. They really got the most out of her and she’s still doing amazing.”

Funny How picked up $55,000 for her fifth win in seven starts to boost her bankroll to $262,660. She’s one of nine winners out of Heavenly Humor, who won seven of 18 starts including five stakes on the Northern California circuit in the mid-2000s.

Hibiscus Stables purchased Heavenly Humor in foal to Big Brown for $25,000 at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga October mixed sale. The resulting foal was Funny Guy, a five-time stakes winner who finished second in the Grade 2 Vosburgh Stakes in 2020. Hibiscus also bred Three Jokers and a yearling New York-bred colt by The Factor from the mare.

Handal didn’t pinpoint Funny How’s next start, but remained as bullish Sunday as that morning back in August.

“We’ll let the dust settle, see what kind of figures she runs and see what options we have going forward. We’re not discouraged from anything. This was a massive performance today.”

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