Charlton Baker's Joking, whom he both owns and trains, was the last-to-first surprise winner of Friday's Grade 2 True North Stakes at Belmont Park. The 7-year-old son of Distorted Humor came with a late rush down the center of the track to get his neck in front on the wire, covering six furlongs in 1:08.04 under Manny Franco.
“I'm very impressed,” said Baker. “He's doing great, but today was [a] step up. I didn't know how he'd handle it. I know he's doing super and then again the track was fast all day. It seemed like speed was dominating.”
Joking broke with the field, but was unhurried out of the gate to find himself last in the field of five in the early going. He waited patiently along the rail, saving ground as the other four runners were all within a length of the lead through the first quarter. Dads Caps held a half-length advantage over Catalina Red after a quarter in :22.44, with Always Sunshine and Holy Boss together in third position. Approaching the half-mile mark, the favored Catalina Red dropped the bit and fell back a short ways, leaving Dads Caps alone with a 1 1/2 length lead.
Joking, meanwhile, waited until the last possible moment to angle out, utilizing his ground-saving trip along the rail to its full advantage. Franco began with a right-handed stick, then switched to ask him several more times left-handed. When that didn't work, Franco switched back to the right hand, and finally was able to get some momentum built up. In the final sixteenth of a mile, Joking made up nearly three lengths on Dads Caps, just getting his neck down in front at the wire. Dads Caps was second, a half-length in front of Holy Boss. Catalina Red was fourth.
“It's the perfect distance for him because they put pace in front of him and he's coming on from behind,” said Franco. “I tried to get out with a good trip and try to take advantage.”
Bred in Kentucky by Darley Stud, Joking was first claimed from Darley for $35,000 in 2013 by Good Karma Stable. Current owner/trainer Charlton Baker claimed him for $20,000 in January of 2014. He won his first stakes race last out, and the True North was his first start in graded company. The gelding, out of a daughter of A.P. Indy, has compiled a record of 9-8-8 from 39 starts, with earnings of nearly $650,000.
Watch the race replay here:
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