01/06/2017 10:20AM

2016 Eclipse Awards: Practical Joke

Debra A. Roma

Trainer Chad Brown knew that Practical Joke had the mental makeup to be a good horse well before the colt proved it on the racetrack.

But Practical Joke did prove himself a talented runner, winning his first three starts, including two Grade 1 stakes, before finishing third in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. Those accomplishments made him a finalist for the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.

“The horse, he just trains ahead of his time,” Brown said last summer. “Mentally, he’s a big, strong, quiet gentleman of a horse who takes everything in. He’s very intelligent, nothing rattles this horse. He’s so professional out there on the racetrack. I’ve been impressed with it since the first time we worked the horse.”

Practical Joke got his name from his breeding. He’s a son of Into Mischief out of the Distorted Humor mare Halo Humor. He was purchased for $240,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale by Brown on behalf of owners Seth Klarman and William Lawrence.

:: Eclipse Awards: 2016 finalists with profiles

Practical Joke debuted Aug. 6 at Saratoga, winning a six-furlong maiden race by five lengths, running six furlongs in a solid 1:10.02. Practical Joke made his next start in the Grade 1 Hopeful, a seven-furlong race at Saratoga that changed right out of the gate when the favorite, Classic Empire, unseated his rider and was out of the race.

Practical Joke, ridden by Jose Ortiz that day, raced in midpack behind a slow pace and in the stretch was able to gradually wear down pacesetters Royal Copy and Pretty Boy Flash to win by a neck.

“He gave me a great turn of foot,” Ortiz said.

The Hopeful gave Brown his first Grade 1 victory on dirt by a male horse. Practical Joke also gave Brown his second Grade 1 victory on dirt by a male horse when, after breaking poorly, he was able to wear down the speedy and stubborn Syndergaard in the Champagne at Belmont Park, winning by a nose.

“Even though he got a very good pace setup, he spotted the field several lengths at the start,” Brown said. “Luckily, he was good enough to recover and come with a big, strong run down the lane and win the bob.”

Despite two Grade 1 victories, Practical Joke flew under the radar heading into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He was sent off as the seventh choice at 7-1 in the 11-horse field. He was jostled slightly coming out of the gate and raced a bit wide early in the race before making an inside move around the turn and into the stretch.

Though he was not able to match strides with Classic Empire and Not This Time, who finished 7 3/4 lengths clear of him, Practical Joke did finish third and was 4 1/4 lengths clear of the rest of the field.

Practical Joke is currently based at the Palm Meadows training center in south Florida. Brown said the horse likely will return to the work tab toward the end of January. He could make his 3-year-old debut March 4 in either the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park or the Gotham at Aqueduct.