7 News Special Report: 'The Horse Was A Hero'

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It's a picture of serenity at the Kentucky Horse Park.

A chestnut gelding is middle aged now, but still sleek and strong.

He greets visitors, ambles about the grounds and lives a quiet life. 

But a decade ago, it's a vastly different story - the story of a horse that captured the Kentucky Derby and the heart of folks in the north country.

It was ten years ago that Funny Cide became a household name and his six co-owners from Sackets Harbor were catapulted onto the world stage.

"Ten years later for Funny Cide, it seems like yesterday for most of us," said co-owner JP Constance.

In 2002, six school chums pitched in a few thousand dollars each to help buy a horse. 

Funny Cide's pedigree was only mildly impressive. 

However, he seemed to have a special charisma.

"People could take a good look at him and he'd look back and forth and eyeball one another, really make that connection," said co-owner Larry Reinhardt.

On the track, Funny Cide displayed a fierce will to win, earning him the nickname, The Gutsy Gelding.

He qualified for the Kentucky Derby, something  beyond the wildest dreams of his Sackets Harbor owners.

"For little guys like us to be in the Kentucky Derby - one of 20 horses out of 33,000 horses born every year that could be in a derby, we're one of 20. Amazing, absolutely amazing. We had won," said Constance.

But the fairy tale was far from over.

Funny Cide didn't just compete at Churchill Downs, he became the first New York bred horse to win it.

He did it in the tenth fastest winning time in derby history, a time that hasn't been beaten since.

His fans in Sackets Harbor and at the track went wild.

His owners couldn't believe it.

"When we saw him cross that line, it was just mayhem. Unbelievable that our horse had won the Kentucky Derby - one of the biggest - the biggest race in the world," said co-owner Mark Phillips.

Funny Cide was suddenly a star and that stardom would only grow.

Two weeks later, it was the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness.

This time, The Gutsy Gelding ran away with the field.

Funny Cide was now positioned to become the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years, and the first gelding to do it ever.

In part two, we'll look back at how that possibility touched off a Funny Cide fever that his owners could never have imagined.

You can see John Moore's special report, "The Horse Was A Hero," on 7 News at 6 and 11 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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