Joking seeks to have last laugh in TwinSpires BC Sprint
Owner-trainer Charlie Baker hasn't won with 25 percent of his starters this year by placing his stock in the wrong spots, and his seven-year-old gelding Joking definitely belongs among the field in the TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1).
After posting an 11-2-4-2 mark in 2015, Joking has been more judiciously campaigned this term, which also happened to coincide with his rise from allowance mainstay to multiple graded stakes winner.
The Darley-bred son of Distorted Humor was acquired by Baker via claim for $20,000 way back in January 2014. Except for an overnight stakes-placing in March 2015, Joking kicked around the conditioned claiming, starter allowance, and allowance ranks on the NYRA circuit for the better part of two seasons.
After taking the deepest part of the winter off, Joking returned to action this past March 20 and narrowly missed in an Aqueduct optional claimer running for a $62,500 tag. Upped in price to a $100,000 optional claimer three weeks later, the bay hit the winning stride by 1 1/4 lengths.
Baker's instincts for finding the right spot continued into the spring and through the fall. Returning to stakes company for the $100,000 Diablo at Belmont on May 8, Joking was pinched at the start but successfully rallied in the mud to win by three parts of a length. The odds were just under 10-1 next out when Joking upset three rivals in the True North (G2) by a neck on Belmont Stakes weekend.
Recognizing the futility of past trips to Saratoga, Baker chose to keep Joking in his Belmont comfort zone during the summer. Waiting for the October 1 Vosburgh (G1) proved to be the right decision as his stable star rallied from eight lengths down to capture the prestigious six-furlong dash by a length in the mud.
A true mud lark (5-4-1-0), Joking is unlikely to find such conditions in the warmth of Southern California. Indeed, the Sprint will represent Joking's first start ever outside the state of New York after a long career of 39 starts.
It's unfortunate for a horse like Joking that the Breeders' Cup has not been held at Belmont since 2005 and will not be for the foreseeable future. He owns a stellar 6-3-0 record from nine starts over the main track at "Big Sandy."
Like other closers, he's a potential beneficiary of a hot pace. How he'll handle completely new surroundings in his first trip away from home is anyone's guess, and is one of the main reasons why bettors will generally treat him with caution.
(Jessie Holmes/EquiSport Photos)