Muad’dib scores again in Funkhouser Memorial

Most eyes were on Muad’dib leading up to Saturday’s running of the $75,000 Randy Funkhouser Memorial Stakes for West Virginia-breds traveling the three-turn distance of nine furlongs.

And why not? He entered with 11 wins in 12 starts, a spotless record against state-breds, a victory last year in this event when it was contested as the A Huevo Stakes, a runner-up effort two back in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic, and most recently a second consecutive win in the West Virginia Breeders’ Classic.

But while Muad’dib was sent postward as the 2-5 favorite for trainer Jeff Runco and owner David Raim, members of the Funkhouser family had a pair of rooting interests in veteran Bubba Grump and the sophomore Jungle Beast, who had captured the West Virginia Futurity last fall with Randy Funkhouser present. Bubba Grump and Jungle Beast, typically among the favorites in their usual attempts against state-bred foes, were both relegated to longshot status.

When the gates opened in the Randy Funkhouser Memorial, Muad’dib broke in good order from his outside slot in the field of eight. But it was Bubba Grump who led the field through the far turn the first time and Allen Can Do It and Free Sailin in closest attendance.

Passing the wire the first time, Muad’dib was able to find a seam between horses and just behind the leaders. He would make his presence known down the backside when he joined Bubba Grump nearing the quarter pole.

Muad’dib surged to command outside of Bubba Grump midway on the far turn, but the O’Sullivan Farms homebred was not about to relinquish the advantage so readily. Muad’dib gradually wore down the longshot leader turning for home and then outlasted the late surge of C.R’s Mandate to score by three parts of a length in 1:53.98 for the one-mile and one-eighth event on a good main track.

C.R’s Mandate, upset winner of the WVBC Onion Juice a month ago, garnered the place spot at 34-1, with 32-1 Bubba Grump lasting for third in a gritty effort. Free Sailin, winner of the WV Lottery Breeders’ Classic last out, earned fourth in his first try against older foes and traveling three turns.

Muad'dib Funkhouser Memorial
Muad’dib won a hard-fought Randy Funkhouser Memorial Stakes at Charles Town. Photo by Coady Photography.

“When he made the lead, he really started to wait on those other horses,” jockey Arnaldo Bocachica said of Muad’dib, who notched his third win in four starts this year and now owns 12 wins and $739,405 banked from 13 career outings. “When he made the lead on the far turn, I thought he was going to draw off. But he has a habit of waiting on horses. He really didn’t pick up the bit until he heard the one horse [C.R’s Mandate] coming to him. That’s why I try to keep him out in the center of the track – so he hears those other horses coming.”

Muad’dib paid $2.80 to win. The exacta, with the longshot underneath, returned $23.60 for a one-dollar wager.

In the moments after the race, with members of the Funkhouser family joining Runco and Bocachica in the winner’s circle for the trophy presentation, Runco offered the trophy to Funkhouser’s widow, Katherine [Clissy] Funkhouser, who respectfully declined.

“Randy and I were really good friends,” Runco said. “We used to talk all the time. He did a lot for the people up here involved in racing. It’s such a wonderful family. I was glad Muad’dib could win this race, the first one named for Randy. He’s been a special horse since day one. He’s only had four starts this year, so I might try him in a stakes race at Laurel next month.”

John Funkhouser, currently President of the West Virginia Thoroughbred Breeders Association, joined his mother and brother, Joe Funkhouser, in the winners’ circle presentation.

“I was so happy with the way that Bubba Grump ran,” John Funkhouser said. “I remember dad telling me that he was always better with five, six weeks between races. If he would have another two weeks between races he might have been even better. But if neither one of mine could win it, I was glad Jeff’s horse did. He and my dad were really close.”

Note: An earlier version of the story gave Clissy Funkhouser’s given first name as Elizabeth. It is Katherine. We regret the error.