Funtastic Speeds to United Nations Upset

Funtastic2Longest shot of four entered by trainer Chad Brown won grade 1 at odds of 23-1.

It wasn’t much of a surprise trainer Chad Brown sent out the winner of the $300,000 United Nations Stakes (G1T) at Monmouth Park June 30.

He is the nation’s top turf conditioner by a wide margin and a two-time winner of the Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer, and he sent out four of nine starters in the 1 3/8-mile turf stakes.

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FuntasticWhat was a stunner on a brutally hot day at the Jersey Shore was which of his four uncoupled starters crossed the wire first. Even though Brown sent out the top three betting choices in the race, it was Funtastic who made a laughingstock of his 23-1 odds and posted a gate-to-wire, half-length victory over stablemate Money Multiplier. It was the first grade 1 win for both the 4-year-old More Than Ready colt and rider Antonio Gallardo.

“I really can’t remember winning a turf race at those odds,” Brown said with a smile. “Maybe it was in my first year of training.”

Considering Brown started training in 2007 and has amassed more than $130.8 million in earnings, that covers a lot of ground, and the Three Chimneys Farm colt certainly took an unusual path to a grade 1 victory. The United Nations was his graded stakes debut in his ninth start, and he was last seen May 26, when he won a second-level optional-claiming allowance at 1 1/2 miles on the Belmont Park turf.

“I was pleasantly surprised but not shocked,” said Brown, who took special satisfaction in winning a race he said was a personal favorite of his mentor, deceased Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel. “I knew it would be a tough race, and the owner, Mr. (Goncalo Borges) Torrealba, deserves all credit. He was sure this horse could stay a distance of ground in grade 1 class.

“I was thinking about the (Woodford Reserve) Manhattan (G1T, June 9 at Belmont), then decided to run in a long allowance race at Belmont, and if he ran well, then maybe the United Nations would be a better race for him. Then as this race approached, I thought this wasn’t going to be easy, either. Mr. Torrealba said, ‘I want to run. Let’s just see how he stands.'”

How Funtastic stands is a candidate for either the Aug. 11 Arlington Million (G1T) at Arlington International Racecourse or the Aug. 25 Sword Dancer (G1T) at Saratoga Race Course, and Gallardo also deserves a large share of the credit for the frontrunning win that put the colt in the spotlight.

“I made the lead easy, and I felt I had a lot of horse. Every time I asked him, he gave me something more and more. I could see he wanted to win,” the rider said.

After a break from the inside post, Gallardo seized control at the start and stayed in front the rest of the way. He set fractions of :48.89 and 1:13.52 through six furlongs. Ahead by two lengths after a mile, the horse who appeared to be a rabbit for his stablemates outfoxed all of them and had enough speed in reserve to hold off Money Multiplier, the 2-1 favorite.

“Antonio rode a wonderful race to take the initiative coming out the race,” Brown said. “He used his horse a little bit to get position and then backed it down enough to carry him all the way. I thought it was a really, really superb ride. It was his first grade 1 win, and I was so happy to be a part of it. He’s really a top rider.”

Bigger Picture, the 2017 United Nations winner, finished third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Money Multiplier and half a length ahead of Vettori Kin. Brown also finished fifth with Silverwave and eighth with Kurilov. The final time was 2:12.36.

For Gallardo, his first grade 1 victory was a special moment.

“It means a lot to me,” he said. “I’m a seven-time leading jockey in the United States, and twice I had the second most wins in the United States. I have a grade 2 win, but not a grade 1. Before the race, I told my mother I have to get a grade 1 win. She said, ‘Don’t worry. You’ll get it today.'”

That win was the fourth in nine starts for Funtastic and pushed his earnings to $384,943. Bred by Besilu Stables in Kentucky, out of the Quiet American mare Quiet Dance, Funtastic has the kind of pedigree that boded well for a grade 1 win at some point in the colt’s career, according to his trainer

“He’s an outstandingly bred horse. He’s a half to (2005 Horse of the Year) Saint Liam,” Brown said. “I know he was a dirt horse, but Funtastic was bred in the purple and had a right to be a grade 1 horse on some circuits.”

Earlier on the 13-race Monmouth card that featured four stakes, three scratches reduced the $100,000 Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3) field to four and allowed jockey Joe Bravo to “walk the dog” on Harlan Punch.

Bravo put the 5-year-old gelding on the lead at the start and never looked back, as the Kentucky-bred cruised along with a clear lead through comfortable fractions of :48.82 and 1:12.53, then pulled away in the stretch to post a 5 1/4-length score over $1.8 million earner Page McKenney in the mile-and-a-sixteenth stakes.

“I’m probably the biggest Page McKenney fan there is, but when you’ve got a horse that is lone speed, it’s hard to beat,” Bravo said. “He was out there by himself. He ran off with me. He was the best horse, and he was out there by himself. It’s hard to catch a walking dog.”

Owned and trained by David Jacobson and bred by Rosemont Farm, Harlan Punch ended a three-race losing streak and posted his first win since a seven-length victory in the Stymie Stakes March 10 at Aqueduct Racetrack.

A slight 6-5 favorite, Harlan Punch ($4.40) notched his eighth win in 31 starts and increased his earnings to $653,993.

“Joe Bravo rode him perfectly, as he always does for me,” Jacobson said. “A perfect ride, and the race just set up perfectly for us. When that horse gets to the lead, he’s tough. He gets in front and he gets his ears up, he relaxes, and he’s tough to beat. It’s the first of many more graded stakes for him, I hope.”

Brown added to his turf stakes wins earlier in the card when Joseph Allen’s Dream Awhile posted a three-quarter-length victory in the $100,000 Eatontown Stakes (G3T).

A 4-year-old filly, Dream Awhile overcame a stumbling start to rally from fourth in the field of five and fended off a late bid from runner-up Special Event.

A daughter of War Front , the Kentucky homebred posted her first graded stakes win after she finished third in the Longines Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes (G2T) at Churchill Downs and second in Suwannee River Stakes (G3T) at Gulfstream Park.

She has four wins in 10 starts, with earnings of $215,689.

In the $75,000 Lady’s Secret Stakes, Divine Miss Grey stretched out to two turns and edged away late under jockey Kendrick Carmouche to prevail by three-quarters of a length over Moonlit Garden.

Claimed for $16,000, Divine Miss Grey, a daughter of Divine Park bred in Kentucky by Brereton Jones, has nine wins in 18 starts and earnings of $473,672.