The scratch of sprint division leader A. P. Indian and the muddy track conditions Oct. 1 at Belmont Park left the door wide open in the Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) and 7-year-old Joking came right on through for his first top-level triumph.
In his first start in more 3 1/2 months, after he capped a three-race win streak in the True North (gr. II) June 10, the son of Distorted Humor got the six furlongs in 1:09.18, with jockey Manny Franco also enjoying his first grade I score. He earned an automatic starting berth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) Nov. 5 at Santa Anita Park through the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" series. He was entered in the Belmont Sprint Championship (gr. III) July 9, but he was scratched due to an injured split bone.
With Joking biding his time next to last in the seven-horse field for the Vosburgh, X Y Jet grabbed the early lead, zipped a quick first quarter in :21.59 and the half in :44.12, and held his command before tiring into the stretch, where Holy Boss took a short-lived lead. Stallwalkin' Dude forged to the front but Joking rallied down the center of the track to secure a one-length win. Stallwalkin' Dude finished another length to the good of Weekend Hideaway.
Joking, who is owned and trained by Charlton Baker, paid $10, $5.40, and $3.60, Stallwalkin' Dude returned $6.90 and $5, and Weekend Hideaway paid $4.30 to show.
"Super! Super! That's the word to describe it," Baker said of Joking's performance in the Vosburgh "We're definitely going to go on the Breeders' Cup (Sprint) from here."
Joking was claimed from Sheikh Mohammed's Darley by trainer David Cannizzo for $35,000 at Belmont Park in September 2013 and three starts later, Baker claimed him or $20,000 in January 2014 at Aqueduct Racetrack. He made his stakes debut last March at Belmont in the Peeping Tom Stakes, in which he finished second, but broke through in his next stakes start, the listed Diablo Stakes in May at Belmont in his start prior to his neck victory over two-time Carter Handicap (gr. I) winner Dads Caps in the True North.
"He's gotten a lot calmer," Baker said. "He's definitely matured with age. He used to be a horse that was always jittery. He would get all sweaty, but he's gotten calmer as he's gotten older. The price when I got him for $20,000, I thought he was a bargain. I had watched him for most of his career and when he ran for $50,000 I thought about him but when he got down to my price range in $20,000, thankfully we were able to get him."
Bred in Kentucky by Darley from the A.P. Indy mare Spun Silk, Joking improved his record to 10-8-8 from 39 starts.