October 21, 2021

Practical Joke, By the Moon likely Breeders’ Cup bound after Saratoga wins

Practical Joke is led into the Saratoga winner's circle under jockey Rajiv Maragh following his victory in the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1) on Saturday, August 26, 2017 (c) NYRA/Chelsea Durand/Adam Coglianese Photography

Multiple Grade 1 winner Practical Joke could be headed to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) after rallying for a 1 1/4-length win in Saturday’s H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes (G1) at Saratoga.

Trainer Chad Brown reported the Into Mischief sophomore exited his win in good shape and is now a candidate to make his 2017 finale in the Dirt Mile.

“Practical Joke ran outstanding,” Brown said. “It was his third race in seven weeks. We’ve asked him to do a lot of different things and he keeps showing up for us. We have a lot of respect for this horse. Undefeated at one turn, he’s definitely found his niche. We’ll try to keep him at one turn if we can. Of course, the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile is two turns and we’re going to have to take a look at it.”

Practical Joke entered the seven-furlong Jerkens Memorial off a half-length third in the 1 1/8-mile Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park on July 30, and is now five-for-five going a mile or less.

Takaful filled the second spot behind Practical Joke on Saturday in his best performance against stakes rivals to date. He ran third in last year’s Remsen Stakes (G2) but was distanced in both the Jerome Stakes (G3) and Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) this season.

“Takaful ran great,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said, “second-best to a multiple Grade 1 winner. We were happy with our run. We’re not sure where we’ll run back, but we’re proud of him. He ran well.”

The Bernardini colt tried to lead all the way home, setting the early pace before being caught in the lane by Practical Joke. Takaful entered the Jerkens Memorial off a 5 1/4-length wire job against allowance foes on July 21 at Saratoga.

Lightly raced Coal Front saw his perfect three-for-three mark broken when fifth in the Jerkens Memorial for trainer Todd Pletcher.

“Coal Front came back fine, I can’t offer much excuse, he pretty much got the trip we were expecting and couldn’t quite make up much ground in the lane,” Pletcher said.

One race earlier, By the Moon pulled out the head score in the Ballerina Stakes (G1) for trainer Michelle Nevin. The win awarded the Indian Charlie filly an automatic berth to the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) on November 4 at Del Mar.

“Everything is good today,” Nevin said. “We’re very happy. She ran very well and is looking well today.”

By the Moon just missed in last year’s Ballerina by a half-length and wound up fifth, beaten only three lengths, in the Filly & Mare Sprint next out.

“That was soul-crushing last year,” Nevin admitted. “This year Rajiv (Maragh) just did a great job with her. It was simply an amazing ride and she’s such a nice filly.”

The trainer didn’t say what was next for By the Moon.

“For now, we’ll let (owner Samantha Siegel of Jay Em Ess Stable) enjoy it,” Nevin said. “It’s just the first day back, so we’ll take our time.”