Practical Joke, the 2-1 second choice In the 112th running of the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) for 2-year-olds at Saratoga Race Course, prevailed in a photo by a neck over Royal Copy and Pretty Boy Flash. The son of Into Mischief covered the seven furlongs in 1:23.39.
The 8-5 favorite, Classic Empire wheeled soon after coming out of the gate from post six, unseating Irad Ortiz Jr. The colt was vanned off the track.
Royal Copy was a 15-1 chance and Pretty Boy Flash was 25-1 in the seven-horse cast. Those two broke alertly and took the early advantage and the pair swapped leads early while setting very moderate fractions of :23.80 and :47.69. They were tracked by the New York-bred Runaway Lute with 3-1 third choice Bitumen to his outside Practical Joke sat fifth and Everybodyluvsrudy trailed.
Royal Copy and Pretty Boy Flash continued their two-horse battle on the lead through six furlongs in 1:11.27, but Practical Joke was getting to them while traveling best in the middle of the track. He collared the pair of pacesetters in the final jumps. Royal Copy was a nose to the good of Pretty Boy Flash and Bitumen was 6 3/4 lengths back in fourth.
“He's got tactical speed, he can run close to the pace, and he fired when I asked him to run,” said Ortiz. “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.
"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 winner, the sixth foal of Halo Humor, by Distorted Humor , races for Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence, and caps a memorable Saratoga stand for trainer Chad Brown, who topped Todd Pletcher’s meet win record the day before. The Hopeful was win No. 40 for Brown and a meet leading 65 for Ortiz.
In his lone outing prior to the Hopeful, Practical Joke broke his maiden going six lengths at Saratoga by five lengths Aug. 6.
“That first race I thought he ran well and his second time here he also came back to run a huge race,” said Brown. “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.”
“I'm very grateful to win the Hopeful, it's a grade I, on a promising 2-year-old like Practical Joke,” said Ortiz. “I think he's a pretty nice horse.”
Practical Joke, bred by Whispering Oaks, was a $240,000 Keeneland September sale graduate. Whispering Oaks acquired Halo Humor, in foal to Fusaichi Pegasus, for $130,000 at the 2008 Keeneland January sale. A two-time winner, Halo Humor has been bred the last two years to Colonel John and Shanghai Bobby , respectively, without a registered foal. She was bred to both Overanalyze and Shanghai Bobby for 2017.
Practical Joke paid $6.20, $3.90, and $3.20. Royal Copy paid $13.40 and $7.10 while Pretty Boy Flash paid $8.10. The $1 exacta, 2-5, paid $26.50.