BARBARA FRITCHIE H. | PURSE: $250,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS & UP | FILLIES AND MARES | GRADE 2 | 7 FURLONGS
Bobby Rankin's Funnys Approval proved she's no laughing matter on off tracks with a solid front-running upset in the $250,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at Laurel Park Feb. 16.
Facing far more accomplished foes in the seven-furlong test for fillies and mares, Funnys Approval was dismissed at 21-1. The Kentucky homebred was coming off three consecutive victories at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort last fall. She won a maiden special weight event and an allowance race for non-winners of two races lifetime in October, and an allowance event for non-winners of four races lifetime in December.
The last two races marked her only races on a sloppy track. The muddy, sealed surface at Laurel obviously was to her liking.
Trained by Jose Lopez and ridden by Juan Vargas, Funnys Approval broke alertly in the eight-horse field and led fellow longshot Celtic Chant through early fractions of :23.02 for the opening quarter mile and :46.46 for the half mile. Favored My Wandy's Girl, one of two in the race trained by Mike Hushion, had the rail and stalked in third.
Approaching the six-furlong mark, reached in 1:11.99, My Wandy's Girl moved up to engage the leader as Onepointhreekarats ranged into contention three-wide. Funnys Approval drifted toward the center of the racetrack but repelled all challenges to hold off My Wandy's Girl by three-quarters of a length in 1:25.29.
Withgreatpleasure rallied for third, another five lengths back. Second choice Nicole H was never involved and checked in fourth.
Funnys Approval, a 4-year-old filly by Outrageouslyfunny out of the Cherokee Run mare Cherokee Approval, paid $45.80 to win.
Ten fillies and mares were entered in the Barbara Fritchie, but Bold Affair and Dance to Bristol, who both figured to seriously factor, were trainer scratches earlier in the day.
"I was waiting for somebody to be coming," said Vargas, who bagged his first graded stakes victory. "The filly broke good. I was waiting for someone to pressure us, but by the half-mile pole I could relax a little. Turning for home I did feel the horse to our inside, but she had another gear to the wire."
Funnys Approval is stabled at Turfway Park with the rest of the Lopez string. After her most recent race in early December, the filly had two four-furlong workouts in January at Turfway, the last on Feb. 10 in a bullet :47 on the Polytrack.
"I always knew she was good enough to make good races," Lopez said. "She won three races in a row and we were waiting for races. I came last week and I ran one here, and I looked at the stakes and said, 'Let's run a shot, you got to be in it to win it.' She breezed very easily (Feb. 10); she had a tone of horse left and came back like a million dollars.
"When I saw the forecast I was happy about it. I was doing the rain dance. I've only won one other stakes. My second is in a grade II. That's absolutely unbelievable."
Irad Ortiz Jr., who traveled from New York to ride My Wandy's Girl, said the 4-year-old Flower Alley filly "picked it up pretty good but couldn't catch the winner." In her last race Nov. 24 of last year, My Wandy's Girl finished third in the grade I Gazelle Stakes.
"The winner had an easy lead," Ortiz said. "Nobody really went after her."
Funnys Approval, now for four-for-eight, earned $150,000 in the Barbara Fritchie to take her earnings to $196,379.