Practical Joke closes out Champagne after Syndergaard brings heat
Syndergaard brought the heat, but Practical Joke, with Joel Rosario aboard, closed the deal, narrowly, in Saturday's $500,000 Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park.
Under heavy pressure from Big Gray Rocket, 19-10 favorite Syndergaard ripped off fractions of :22.74, :44.63 and 1:08.76. Meanwhile, after a slow start, Practical Joke conceded the leader more than eight lengths, but began to make up considerable ground turning for home.
"I've got to look at the replay to see what happened [at the start], but Joel [Rosario] quickly moved inside of horses, which I thought was smart, and set himself up for a clear run when he tipped him out," trainer Chad Brown said.
Cutting the corner at the top of the stretch, Practical Joke figured to blow past Syndergaard, but the long-time leader gamely dug in through the stretch. The pair nearly finished up on even terms, but Practical Joke did just get his nose in front at the wire, despite being herded late, in at time of 1:34.68 over a fast track.
Improving his record to three-for-three for owners Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, Practical Joke paid $7.90 as the 5-2 fourth choice in a field of six. It was 6 1/2 lengths back to Favorable Outcome in third.
"They were obviously going very fast in front, not only the two leaders, but my other horse [Favorable Outcome] in close pursuit behind, so the race set up beautifully for this horse. He's undefeated, he's a really good horse. He's handled the distance increases every time we've asked him to, and we're looking forward to getting to run him a little bit further. The runner-up is a very good horse as well, and deserves a lot of credit for fighting as well as he did."
Practical Joke is now likely to move on to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita. A five-length debut winner at Saratoga on August 6, he returned to notch that track's most prestigious juvenile event, the Hopeful (G1), by a neck over seven furlongs on September 5.
A $240,000 Keeneland September purchase, Practical Joke was bred in Kentucky by Whispering Oaks. A son of Into Mischief, he's out of the stakes-placed Halo Humor, by Distorted Humor.
(Adam Coglianese Photography)