William H. Lawrence and Klaravich Stables' Practical Joke did not mess around when taking Monday's G1 Hopeful Stakes, closing strongly down the stretch to win by a neck at the wire. The juvenile son of Into Mischief complete seven furlongs over Saratoga's fast main track in 1:23.39 for meet-leading jockey Jose Ortiz and trainer Chad Brown.
“It's been a pleasure to train him,” said Brown, winning his first ever G1 on dirt with a male trainee. “That first race I thought he ran well and his second time here he also came back to run a huge race. He was able to sit off and track the pace. Jose gave him an unbelievable ride and he looked like he was extending away in the stretch so I don't think any added distance will be an issue. It's been a pleasure to train for these guys Seth Klarman [of Klaravich Stables] and William Lawrence. Next out, we'll probably point to the Champagne [Grade 1, $500,000 on October 8 at Belmont Park].”
In a strange incident at the start of the race, the favorite Classic Empire was getting out sharply just after the break, then appeared to wheel to his right, unseating jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. The rider was reported to be okay, and outriders quickly apprehended Classic Empire. Meanwhile, Pretty Boy Flash had jumped out to lead the pack through a steady first quarter of :23.80, about a half-length in front of Royal Copy. Practical Joke was in behind them on the rail, and Bitumen kept him company on the outside.
Royal Copy took over the lead entering the far turn, with Pretty Boy Flash hanging in there as they began to turn for home. Jose Ortiz on Practical Joke waited to angle out until the field straightened for home, and had about two lengths to make up at the head of the lane. Ortiz asked the question and Practical Joke answered strongly, fighting on past the dueling Pretty Boy Flash and Royal Copy to win by a neck on the wire. Royal Copy finished second, and Pretty Boy Flash was third. It was another two lengths back to Bitumen in fourth.
“Chad is a great guy, a great person and a great trainer. He proved it to everyone at Saratoga,” Ortiz said. “I'm very grateful to win the Hopeful, it's a Grade 1, on a promising 2-year-old like Practical Joke. I want to thank them for giving me the opportunity to ride him. I think he's a pretty nice horse. He's got tactical speed, he can run close to the pace, and he fired when I asked him to run. The pace was pretty slow. I thought about taking the lead as soon as we broke because I knew we were going so slow. But something told me, don't do it, and the trip worked out perfect.”
Bred in Kentucky by Whispering Oaks, Practical Joke was a $240,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase. He broke his maiden at first asking by five lengths at Saratoga, and improves his career record to a perfect 2-for-2 with the Hopeful win. He now boasts earnings of $250,000.
Watch the race replay here:
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