There may have been an anxious moment or two while Practical Joke was hemmed inside in early stretch, but once he got clear the 3-5 favorite pulled away from his four rivals July 8 in $400,000 Dwyer Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park.
A two-time grade 1 winner as a juvenile, Practical Joke returned to the winner's circle for the first time since October's Champagne Stakes (G1). He is owned by Seth Klarman's Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, and is trained by Chad Brown. The connections were classic winners in May, when Cloud Computing scored in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
In the Dwyer, which drew five sophomores, True Timber broke on top, but it was Battalion Runner who assumed command early and set a moderate pace of :23.12 and :47.15. He was tracked by True Timber and grade 2-placed Giuseppe the Great, with Practical Joke several lengths off the lead while hugging the rail. Charles Fipke's homebred Tale of Silence, at 43-1, trailed early but moved to the front in the stretch after six furlongs in 1:11.55.
Rosario bided his time on the rail, as Battalion Runner, the second choice, attempted to keep Tale of Silence at bay. Rosario then swung Practical Joke out to the four path and quickly engaged the leaders. In a matter of strides he was in front and his advantage grew to the wire. Tale of Silence edged Battalion Runner by a neck for second. The final quarter was run in a good :23.61.
"I had a good trip," Rosario said. "There weren't a lot of horses in the race, so I stayed inside for a bit. ... He was the best horse in the race. He looked good and finished really strongly. That's what we were hoping for."
The winner, out of the Distorted Humor mare Halo Humor, was bred by Keith and Allen Krupper's Whispering Oaks Farm near Paris, Ky., and ran through Keeneland's sale ring twice as a yearling. As part of Vinery Sales, agent, he sold to Clear Ridge Stables for $135,000 at the 2015 January sale. That September, consigned by Gainesway, he was purchased by Aquinnah Ventures for $240,000.
Practical Joke returned $3.50, $2.80, and $2.10. Tale of Silence paid $12 and $4.10, while Battalion Runner paid $2.10.
Practical Joke earned his first victory of the year in the Dwyer, which was run for the 100th time Saturday. A winner of the grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at seven furlongs, he polished off his 2-year-old season with a third-place finish behind champion Classic Empire and Not This Time in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). Practical Joke began his 2017 campaign with a second-place finish behind Gunnevera in the Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). He then was a close second to Irap in Keeneland's Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) before a fifth-place effort in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).
Practical Joke is now 4-2-1 in eight starts and has earned $1,295,800.
"The pace wasn't that strong," Brown said of the Dwyer. "On top of that, the horse was giving six to eight pounds to every horse in the race. He really ran well today. I certainly think it's the best race he's ever won."