VIRGINIA-OWNED FILLY WINS GR.I C.C.A. OAKS

Mrs. C.W. “Carter” McNeely was looking to build her broodmare band. After years of running her own farm and serving successfully as bloodstock manager for Eldon Equine, former VTA president Debbie Easter was starting her won independent bloodstock agency business. The Charlottesville-based horsewomen had known one another for many years.

It seems like it would be a perfect match. Saturday, after McNeely’s Funny Moon charged down the stretch to capture the $300,000 Coaching Club American Oaks Gr.I by a neck, it was very apparent just how perfect the match really is. It comes as no surprise to those who know Easter who has consistently made money and won races for her clients over the years

Easter purchased two fillies for McNeely at the 2007 Saratoga yearling sale. Funny Moon, by Malibu Moon out of Fun Crowd by Easy Goer, cost $175,000, and Saturday she became a first class broodmare while repaying her purchase price with the $180,000 winner’s share of the C.C.A. Oaks’ purse.

For years, Easter and trainer Randy Miles (both pictured below at the 2006 Colonial Turf Cup) have been in the pinhooking business together. McNeely sent Funny Moon to Miles for her early training, and Miles was the first to note her talent.

“Randy and Christophe have always told us she was very talented, and now she has proved it,” Easter said.

The filly was scheduled to make her first start at Saratoga last summer, but an injury set her back. She debuted in Florida this year, running second in a maiden race at Gulfstream Park. She came back a month later, and broke her maiden at the Florida track and followed that up with a May allowance win at Belmont Park.

Encouraged by her allowance win, her connections opted to run her in the Gr.I Mother Goose. It turned out to be the only poor performance of her now six race career.
Although she encountered traffic trouble in the Acorn, trainer Clement was surprised when she packed it in and faded to eighth, “I was very disappointed in her performance in the Acorn. We loved the filly beforehand and it’s still a bit of a puzzle why she ran so badly that day, but it doesn’t matter anymore, she’s a Grade 1 winner now.”

Funny Moon came back to win another allowance at Belmont – this time by 8 ¼ lengths over the Fourth of July weekend. That victory set her up for the win in the C.C.A. Oaks.

On Saturday, the Malibu Moon filly rallied from the far outside entering the stretch, well clear of traffic, and she steamrolled through the stretch, passing six opponents in the final quarter-mile to prevail by a neck. Jockey Alan Garcia said her positioning on the final turn was not entirely by design.

“At the three-eighths pole, she didn’t want to make the turn, she wanted to keep going straight,” Garcia said. “I tried to correct her because she was getting green at the top of the stretch. I saw I had a little filly left and all the time I was hitting her, she was giving me more. My filly, she gave me the best she had.”

Funny Moon accelerated gamely after switching leads and closed steadily in the stretch. She powered to the lead in the closing strides and held off runner-up Don’t Forget Gil for her first career stakes win.

Just one-half length separated second place finisher Don’t Forget, Wynning Ride, Edward P. Evans’ Virginia-bred Casanova Move and fifth-place finisher and race favorite Livin Lovin.

Funny Moon finished second in her career debut in February before posting a pair of convincing victories, the first at a mile at Gulfstream Park and the second in a one-mile allowance race at Belmont. She was steadied with about a half-mile remaining in the Acorn and faded badly, but Funny Moon rebounded with an 8 1/4-length romp in an optional claiming race on July 3 at Belmont in her final prep for the Coaching Club American Oaks.

Out of the unraced Easy Goer mare Fun Crowd, Funny Moon is a half sister to multiple stakes winner Throng. She improved to four wins in six starts and boosted her earnings to $265,900.

The other Saratoga purchase from that year, West Court, is racing for McNeely under the care of Clement. While she has yet to break her maiden, her connections remain optimistic about her potential on the grass.

On winning a Gr.I stake with a yearling purchased for a client and friend, Easter said, “It’s a blast!”

To see a replay of the race, click here.