Since last summer, brothers Keith and Allen Crupper have been laughing all the way to the bank. In the name of Whispering Oaks Farm, they bred Practical Joke, a multiple grade 1 winner and Eclipse Award finalist last year at two. Now a sophomore, the colt recently captured the July 8 Dwyer Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park and finished an excellent third in the July 30 betfair.com Haskell Invitational Stakes (G1) at Monmouth Park. In the Haskell, Practical Joke, owned by Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, hit the wire a mere half-length and a nose behind eventual winner Girvin, who just edged out McCraken for the victory.
This performance and his Dwyer win, mark a summer resurgence for the son of Into Mischief, who took a two-month break after a solid fifth-place effort in the May 6 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1). Overjoyed at the colt's success, Keith Crupper said, "It's obviously been a thrill to have a homebred jump up and run like that. He ran a huge race in the Dwyer. I got a little nervous when he was down against the rail there." Crupper boasts classic connections besides Practical Joke, as he assisted the co-owners of 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, with the purchase with the eventual Run for the Roses winner.
Practical Joke got his turn of foot from his speedy sire, 2007 CashCall Futurity (G1) victor Into Mischief , whose progeny's lifetime average winning distance is 6.61 furlongs, and dam, the Distorted Humor mare Halo Humor. Crupper recalled Halo Humor's speed at two; she broke her maiden first time out at Saratoga in 2005, then won an allowance race before finishing fourth in the Matron Stakes (G1) and earning stakes-placed status the following season.
Whispering Oaks purchased her, in foal to Fusaichi Pegasus, for $130,000 from consignor Highclere Sales at the 2008 Keeneland January sale. A fan of her covering sire, Crupper said, "We tried to run her; she didn't stay together. We bred her to Bluegrass Cat." Halo Humor was plagued with ill luck in the breeding shed for several years; the resulting Bluegrass Cat foal wasn't much of a runner. Added Crupper, "She had a Yes It's True that got killed in a training accident in the stall."
However, things took a turn for the better when they sold her to horseman John Mulholland. Mulholland Springs sold Halo Humor's Colonel John filly, eventually named Humor Me Colonel, for $80,000 to Edward Lehman at the 2012 Keeneland September Yearling sale. Defeated by a nose in her only start; a five-and-and-a-half furlong turf sprint in which the winner nearly equaled the Monmouth track record, Humor Me Colonel fetched $230,000 from Springhouse Farm, in foal to Shanghai Bobby, at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Mixed sale.
Although Halo Humor didn't produce living offspring for three seasons after producing Practical Joke, but is currently back in foal to Into Mischief. Expectations are high for a full sibling to Practical Joke. Crupper, who now owns most of his stock under the name Crupper Bloodstock with his wife, said, "He's obviously been pretty his entire life. He was a big, stand-up, forward kind of horse."
By himself and in partnership, Crupper owns about several dozen head. On the Whispering Oaks property in Paris, Ky., he had about 50 foals in 2017 (including boarders); and an additional 25 mares who were open or didn't have a live foal last year are in foal for 2017. That number is down from an all-time high of 300 around 2008-2009. Much of his daily routine focuses on farm maintenance. The late summer sees the Whispering Oaks team prepping horses for sales. Crupper scrupulously keeps close track of his mares and foals; a veterinarian checks his stock daily. "I'm very lucky. I've got a good crew here at the moment," he said. Crupper works closely with his daughter, Rachael, to make sure all is in tip-top shape. Rachael honed her own knowledge of the industry by attending a TOBA seminar at Indiana Downs two years ago. "It really moved her forward," Crupper said, adding it taught her a lot about pedigrees.
"Once a year, we go somewhere and we try not to do horses," he said. Crupper found it difficult to disconnect from his equine roots in Hawaii, limiting his technology use to text message; nevertheless, he lugged Great Breeders and Their Methods with him to paradise. You can take the horseman out of Kentucky, but you sure can't take the Kentucky out of the horseman.