Practical Joke leaves co-owner Hopeful
by TERESA GENARO
The Hopeful (G1) may have been won by a horse called Practical Joke, but there was nothing funny about a race that was bookended by two jockeys going down and two horses requiring medical attention.
At the start, undefeated Classic Empire, the 1.65-1 favorite, wheeled outwards shortly after the break and lost rider Irad Ortiz Jr. After the wire, Runaway Lute fell, resulting in Ricardo Santana Jr. being tended to and getting a ride home in the ambulance.
Both jockeys were reportedly fine, with Ortiz cleared to ride in the finale. New York Racing Association vet Dr. Anthony Verderosa said that Runaway Lute fell from exhaustion and was fine; Classic Empire was vanned off with reported mild lameness.
And Practical Joke got his picture taken, much to the delight of owner Bill Lawrence, who owns the horse in partnership with Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stable. The duo was the runner-up in this year’s Saratoga owners’ race with 12 wins.
“Winning here is bigger, and that made a difference for me,” said the native of Latham, New York, not far from Saratoga. “You grow up, you hope you can own a horse, you hope maybe you can run at Saratoga, and maybe win. I’m so happy to be here.”
A bay colt by Into Mischief, Practical Joke was purchased for $240,000 at the Keeneland September sale in 2015. Out of the Distorted Humor mare Halo Humor, he was bred in Kentucky by Whispering Oaks and came to the Hopeful off a five-length score in his debut at Saratoga on Aug. 6.
Klarman and Lawrence won the Hopeful in 2011 with Currency Swap, a horse that would go on to win the Amsterdam S. (G2) at 6 1/2 furlongs.
“Currency Swap was a nice horse,” said Lawrence. “That was a case where we never really thought he was going to go long. He was a High Cotton, so the breeding wasn’t really there. This one’s more promising.”
A long-time horse owner who knows both the sweetness of Grade 1 winner’s circles as well as the bitter disappointment of tough losses, Lawrence nonetheless permitted himself a little optimism on a perfect late summer, closing day at Saratoga, his home track.
“If you’re going to win one race as a two-year-old,” he said, “…they call it the Hopeful for a reason. We’re ecstatic about that.”
Photo by Teresa Genaro