by Teresa Genaro
Making his first start since the Kentucky Derby (G1) and back in New York, where he is undefeated, Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Practical Joke easily dispatched four rivals in the 100th running of the Dwyer Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park on Saturday.
Freshened since his fifth-place finish in Louisville, Practical Joke went off as the 3-5 favorite under Joel Rosario and stalked a judicious pace set by 6-5 second choice Battalion Runner. Running along the rail, the son of Into Mischief was briefly trapped behind three horses before Rosario took him to the four path and, with clear running room, he cruised past the leaders to win by two lengths, running the mile in 1:35.16.
The win is Practical Joke’s first since the Champagne (G1) at Belmont last October. He began his career with two wins at Saratoga last summer, including the Hopeful Stakes (G1), but was winless in three races in Florida over the winter.
Trainer Chad Brown was impressed with the bay colt’s performance.
“The pace wasn’t that strong and he did get jammed up turning for home, but the horse overcame it all,” Brown said. “He was giving six to eight pounds to every horse in the race, and I certainly think this is the best race he’s ever run.”
Practical Joke carried 123 pounds; the other Dwyer runners carried either 115 or 117.
Out of the Distorted Humor mare Halo Humor, Practical Joke was purchased by Klaravich and Lawrence at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2015 for $240,000. A millionaire coming into the race, he boosted his earnings to just under $1.3 million.
Though Practical Joke is undefeated in four starts at one turn, Brown is taking a “hard look” at the Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park on July 30.
“The timing (of the Dwyer) works for a horse coming out of the Derby,” Brown explained. “Now we get him back on another campaign.
“The Haskell is the race I had in mind,” he continued. “It comes back quick, but I think he can get a mile and an eighth. If he gets the right pace up in front of him, I could see him doing well in a race like that.”
Also on Brown’s radar is the on August 26, seven-furlong H. Allen Jerkens Memorial (G1), run until this year as the King’s Bishop, at Saratoga where Practical Joke is undefeated.
“That’s an interesting race,” Brown said. “It could very much be in play, but there’s a lot of time between now and then.”