While Essence Hit Man rocketed from the gate and set a swift early pace, the eventual winner—a gray son of It's No Joke—broke smartly from post 1 and got an ideal stalking trip along the inside under Emma-Jayne Wilson. Settling in fifth early, he was angled three wide off the rail late on the turn and rallied to challenge the champion in midstretch. He got his head in front in the final furlong and maintained the edge for a half-length triumph.
Essence Hit Man hung on for second, a head in front of wide-rallying even-money favorite Phil's Dream
, who was bidding for an eighth victory of the season and champion Canadian sprinter honors.
Runner-up to then-stablemate Bear Tough Tiger
in last year's edition of the six-furlong Kennedy Road, the Reade Baker-trained Bear No Joke went one better this year, covering the distance on Polytrack in 1:08.63. The time was just two-fifths of a second slower than Essence Hit Man's track record of 1:08.16 set in the 2011 Jacques Cartier Stakes.
"He's just a gutsy horse," Wilson said of the winner, a 5-year-old gelding. "The last two works he's been telegraphing that he's primed for a key effort and he showed up today. It's nice when they show up the way they've been training."
Bear Tough Tiger, now in the barn of Sid Attard after being claimed, finished sixth in his bid for a repeat win in the race. His former Baker stablemate Fatal Bullet
, Canada's 2008 Horse of the Year, finished last in the eight-horse field after flattening out in the stretch.
The Kennedy Road victory is the first in a graded stakes for Bear No Joke and second from six starts this season for Baker, who trains him for Bear Stables.
"I was pretty happy with the one-hole and with Essence Hit Man setting the pace, I got a pretty nice spot in behind and got a shot to get an open trip down the lane and he came running," Wilson said.
Bear No Joke came into the Kennedy Road off a seventh-place finish in the grassy Nearctic Stakes (Can-IT), which was won by Phil's Dream. In his start prior to that, he captured the restricted Kenora Stakes in August at Woodbine to earn his first stakes score. Overall, he has six wins, five seconds, and third from 17 lifetime starts and $456,949 in earnings.
Despite the lackluster effort in the Nearctic, Baker wasn't surprised to see Bear No Joke take the spoils at long odds.
"In his last race, he came out of the race much better than the other horses," said Baker. "They were a little tired, they'd run hard. He (Bear No Joke) didn't get a trip last time and there was no place for him to go, a long way down the lane. I thought he should have been first or second in his last race."
Baker believes a much-needed rest was beneficial.
"When he gets six or seven weeks off, he runs his eyeballs out," said Baker. "That's what we tried to do and it worked...for once."
Bred in Ontario by James A. Everatt, Janeane A. Everatt, and J. Arika Everatt-Meeuse, Bear No Joke is out of the stakes-winning Wolf Power mare Nithi and is a half brother to Canadian classic winner and stakes producer Silver Nithi.