The talent possessed by Practical Joke was no joke at all. He was tough and reliable. It would take the stars aligning for anyone to beat him around one turn. And if he was defeated, it was rarely in disgrace. He was as bright as the star on his head.
This is the story of Practical Joke.
Early Life (2014-2015)
Whispering Oaks farm in Louisiana is responsible for the breeding that produced Practical Joke. Their mare Halo Humor by Distorted Humor had yet to produce a good foal, but that would all change when they bred her to Into Mischief in 2013. She foaled her Into Mischief colt on April 15, 2014.
Practical Joke was a good looking foal with a pleasant disposition. His dam, a leader of any field she was put in, taught him how to be dominant. He was not a bully as a foal, but would channel that dominance into success on the racetrack.
Whispering Oaks entered their colt into Keeneland’s January Horses of All Ages Sale in 2015. The colt looked smart and respectable and enjoyed the attention he was getting.The hammer fell at $135,000, giving Clear Ridge Farm ownership of the yearling.
Clear Ridge resold the horse in the Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $240,000. They had done their job as “pinhookers”, bringing in a hefty profit. Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence were his new owners.
[Video: Practical Joke selling as a yearling]
Two-Year Old Season (2016)
Practical Joke received his early education in Ocala, Florida. He was then sent to the barn of Chad Brown, a man known for turning horses into turf sensations. Except for one thing - Practical Joke wasn’t going to be a turf horse. He proved this to his connections when he overcame a bump at the start of his dirt debut to win by about three lengths.
His connections were so impressed with his win that they immediately entered him into the Gr.1 Hopeful Stakes. As the race’s name suggests, this race is for two-year olds who hope to be the champions of the future. Again, Practical Joke swung around horses on the outside and began his hustle to the wire. This race wouldn’t be as easy as the last; Practical Joke won, but only by a neck.
Jockey Irad Ortiz told BloodHorse after the race, "He was running the whole way. He gave me a great turn of foot when I got him in the clear but the other two horses were in front and they kept fighting a little bit. As soon as he put a head in front, he kept going.”
The colt’s next race was the Gr.1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park. He broke slowly and trailed far behind the leaders. However, he was able to start closing the gap on the backstretch. Around the far turn, he reached the pacesetters and weaved his way into a battle with Syndergaard. The latter was not willing to give up his position and the two battled down to the wire. Practical Joke prevailed by a nose.
The next step for Practical Joke was the Gr.1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. There he would be facing the best two-year olds in the country, not just from New York. He ran his heart out, but finished a well-beaten third behind Classic Empire and Not This Time.
[Video: Watch Practical Joke win the Champagne Stakes]
Three-Year Old Season (2017)
Practical Joke’s loss in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile didn’t take away from his connections’ hopes of him getting into the Kentucky Derby.
They kept him on the trail, first running him in the Gr.2 Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park. There he went flying around the far turn, but didn’t have the momentum that Gunnevera possessed. Gunnevera opened up a gap between himself and his rivals while Practical Joke finished second.
He then shipped to Kentucky for one last preparation for the Kentucky Derby: the Gr.2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes. He looked as if he could win it, but he just couldn’t get past Irap, one of the longest shots on the board. He finished second by a half-length.
Practical Joke left the starting gates at Churchill Downs at odds of 27-1. Before the huge crowds that the Kentucky Derby attracts each year, Practical Joke looked to prove himself a winner. However, the Kentucky Derby is one of the hardest races to win. Practical Joke splashed through the mud to come under the wire in fifth place.
The colt hadn’t made it to the winners’ circle since October. His connections knew they had to try something new, so they cut him back to the one-turn, one- mile distance Gr.3 Dwyer Stakes in July. Practical Joke thanked his connections for the distance relief by two lengths.
"The pace wasn't that strong. On top of that, the horse was giving six to eight pounds to every horse in the race,” trainer Chad Brown told BloodHorse. “He really ran well today. I certainly think it's the best race he's ever won."
[Video: Watch Practical Joke win the Dwyer]
Despite his apparent affinity for the shorter races, Practical Joke was put back into the classic distance for the Gr.1 Haskell Invitational in August. He looked as if he could win it too - barreling down the stretch to get between Girvin and McCraken. The three hit the wire together, Practical Joke’s head crossing the wire just after the other two’s.
After a month’s rest, Practical Joke was entered into the Gr.1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes, a seven furlong, one-turn race at Saratoga. He again relished in the shorter distance, coming from the back of the field to win by about one length.
"To cut back all the way to seven-eighths after a tough race in the Haskell, I'm so proud of this horse," Chad Brown told BloodHorse. "He's so versatile. It was his third race in seven weeks. He's our iron horse.”
Despite concerns over the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile not being one turn, Practical Joke was sent there to face older horses. He just couldn’t quite succeed there, finishing fourth.
They took him back to New York for the Gr.1 Cigar Mile Handicap. Practical Joke finished third, well-beaten by Sharp Azteca. Chad Brown explained that it was hard for Practical Joke to pick up ground on the track, but knew that there was no way he was beating Sharp Azteca that day.
[Video: Watch Practical Joke win the H. Allen Jerkens]
Retirement and Stud Career (2018-now)
After the Cigar Mile, Practical Joke left New York for his new home in Kentucky. He would be residing at Coolmore America among stars like American Pharoah, Classic Empire, Uncle Mo, and countless others.
His racing career had been successful. He had earned himself a record of 12:5-2-3 and acquired a bankroll of nearly $1.8 million. Coolmore was confident that Practical Joke’s success on the racetrack would carry over to his stud career.
So far, breeders have been delighted with their new Practical Joke foals. His foals should begin making their racing debuts in 2021. Until then, Coolmore America keeps a book full of impressive mares for their new stallion. Those willing to pay the $30,000 stud fee can have their mare added to his book too.
The horse racing industry now watches the young Practical Joke foals grow, daydreaming of the days they become winners.
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