OZONE PARK, N.Y. – After homebred Funnys Approval upset the Grade 2 Barbara Fritchie Handicap at odds of 21-1 on February 16 at Laurel Park, owner Bobby Rankin promised to buy his trainer Jose Lopez a new truck.

Lopez said this week that Rankin made good on his word, and now he’s got a sleek new ride to drive to Aqueduct Racetrack, where he will saddle Funnys Approval on Saturday in the Grade 2, $250,000 Ruffian Handicap for fillies and mares, 3 years old and up.

The Ruffian returns to The New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) calendar after a one-year hiatus and is part of an outstanding, stakes-rich race card that includes the Grade 2, $250,000 Gazelle, the Grade 3, $250,000 Bay Shore, the Grade 1, $400,000 Carter Handicap and the featured Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial.

When Funnys Approval showed up at Laurel, she had won three straight races by open lengths, but that form at Mountaineer Park didn’t impress the bettors. Yet, running on a muddy track, she made the lead early in the Fritchie and repelled one challenge after another on her way to three-quarter-length victory over My Wandy’s Girl.

The seven-furlong Fritchie was the longest of Funnys Approval’s eight-race career, and now she will attempt to stretch out again for the one-turn mile Ruffian.

“Last time, I was the underdog, so nobody was paying attention to me,” Lopez said. “I got on the lead and nobody chased me. Now they know what she’s capable of doing, but I don’t have to be on the lead to win. She will lay wherever they want to let her lay. If we have somebody pursue us, we’ll lay back. She’s a very versatile horse.”

Funnys Approval, third choice at 7-2, drew the No. 2 post position in the field of six. Jockey Juan Vargas retains the mount.

My Wandy’s Girl, trained by Michael Hushion, will get another crack at Funnys Approval. Under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., the former Puerto Rican star filly closed well in the Fritchie but could not get by the winner.

The daughter of Flower Alley broke from the inside post that day and now gets to start outside in post No. 6 as the 9-5 favorite on the morning line.

“I love our post position,” Hushion said. “A one-turn mile is a great place to sit on the outside and figure things out and make a decision a quarter-mile into the race.

“She kind of stayed on steady in the race at Laurel, and (her) gallop-outs are very good parts of her works. More importantly, the more distance, the better. I hope everybody can see what she is – a real nice filly.”

Trainer Tony Dutrow entered Twice the Lady, a strong second March 2 to Summer Applause in the Grade 2 Top Flight Handicap at Aqueduct. That race already has produced two next-out winners, including third-place finisher Sunny Desert, who went on to win the Broadway Stakes at Aqueduct on March 30.

“Twice the Lady has been in good form,” Dutrow said of the 5-year-old Quiet American mare, listed at 5-2 on the morning line. “I hope she can carry her race to the main track as good as she’s been doing on the inner track. She’s been an overachiever; that’s what she’s got going for her – her courage. She’s a hard charger.”

On Tuesday, owner Myron Miller privately purchased Centrique for his Farnsworth Stables to run in the Ruffian. The 4-year-old daughter of Malibu Moon has finished in the money in 13 of her past 17 starts, and although trainer Juan Carlos Guerrero hasn’t had much time with her, he knows Centrique well.

“I was going to claim this filly for like $20,000 in Saratoga, and I didn’t go for it and she won by five after that,” he said. “I was talking to the owner. I said, ‘I like her. I know her. I’ve seen her.’ She always runs in two hind bandages and nothing in front and she looks sound and good.”
Guerrero has secured the services of jockey Javier Castellano for the 15-1 long shot.

Withgreatpleasure, third in the Barbara Fritchie and a recent handicap winner at Charles Town and Onepointhreekarats, seventh in the Fritchie after three straight victories, complete the field.