Leaving no doubt that he’s more effective around one turn than two, Practical Joke rallied to beat front-running Takaful in Saturday’s $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga, a seven-furlong dash for three-year-olds run before this year as the King’s Bishop.
Under Joel Rosario, Practical Joke stayed close to the inside from post 1 and bided his time near the back as Takaful set a pace of :22.36 and :45.05. Improving his position on the far turn while still hugging the rail, Practical Joke got off the rail in upper stretch to take aim at the long-time leader and wore that one down to win by 1 1/4 lengths in a time of 1:21.96 over a fast track.
“The rail draw can be tricky going seven-eighths,” trainer Chad Brown said. “I was a little worried about it when it came out. With Joel, we talked about it yesterday in my office. He said, ‘I’m not worried about it. I think there’s enough speed and we’ll get spread out a little bit and have a little separation on the backside.’ He commented the horse has been breaking well from the gate and he wasn’t really worried about it, and he was right.”
Racing for Klaravich Stables and Bill Lawrence, Practical Joke paid $6 as the 2-1 favorite. Takaful held second by 1 3/4 lengths over second choice American Anthem, who was a nose in front of Tale of Silence. Coal Front, No Dozing, Phi Beta Express, Ann Arbor Eddie, and Wild Shot completed the order of finish.
This was the third Grade 1 win for Practical Joke, who also took last year’s Hopeful (G1) and Champagne (G1). His other one turn victories include a five-length maiden win at the Spa last summer and the one-mile Dwyer (G3) on July 8.
While competitive in major two-turn stakes, Practical Joke has so far settled for minor awards in all such attempts. Missing by less than a length in the July 30 Haskell Invitational (G1) and the Blue Grass (G2) in April, he’s also placed in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Fountain of Youth (G2). His worst finish was a credible fifth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) over a wet track.
“To cut back all the way to seven-eighths after a tough race in the Haskell, I’m so proud of this horse,” Brown said. “He’s so versatile. It was his third race in seven weeks. He’s our iron horse.
“Looking at the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) [at Del Mar], it’s a tricky race because it’s around two turns,” Brown said. “He’s undefeated on one turn, but the mile distance seems perfect for him, so if I had to guess right now, that’s where we’ll end up. But I’ll talk to the owners about it, enjoy this and of course observe the horse.”
Bred in Kentucky by Whispering Oaks and a $240,000 Keeneland September yearling, Practical Joke is by Into Mischief and out of the stakes-placed Halo Humor, by Distorted Humor.
Practical Joke has now earned $11,670,800 from a line of 10-5-2-2.