10/01/2016 6:12PM

Joking punches ticket for BC Sprint with Vosburgh win

Barbara D. Livingston
Joking came from far back to win the Vosburgh by a length with jockey Manny Franco.

ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer Charlton Baker claimed Joking on his own behalf for $20,000 in January 2014 when the gelded son of Distorted Humor was 5. On Saturday at Belmont Park, Joking gave Baker and jockey Manny Franco their first Grade 1 victories when he rallied from far back to win the Grade 1 Vosburgh by a length.

The Vosburgh was a Win and You're In for the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 5. Baker said he plans to use the guaranteed, fees-paid berth in the six-furlong race.

"We're definitely going," Baker said.

Green Gratto and X Y Jet cut out furious fractions of 21.59 and 44.12 in the six-furlong Vosburgh, which was run over a muddy, sealed track, while Joking lagged well back.

X Y Jet took over from Green Gratto on the far turn, but began to weaken in upper stretch. Stallwalkin' Dude took the lead as the field bunched up nearing the final furlong, but Joking made the strongest move to earn the victory.

"I just let him do his thing and let the speed go, Franco said. "When he got in the clear he gave me a big kick."

Joking paid $10 as the third betting choice in the seven-horse field. He completed the course in 1:09.18. Stallwalkin' Dude held second by a length over Weekend Hideaway. X Y jet finished fifth. Green Gratto was last.

Joking is having his best season at age 7. Before being given the summer off, he had won three consecutive races - The Grade 2 True North at Belmont in June, the $10,000 Diablo at Belmont in May, and an optional-claiming race at Aqueduct in April.

Baker, 50, is a native of Jamaica. He maintains a stable at Belmont Park and one at Finger Lakes, where his father, Carl, trained. The True North was his first graded stakes win.

Baker credits Joking's improvement this season to maturing with age.

"He used to be a horse that was jittery, that would sweat," Baker said. "He has gotten better as he has gotten older."

Baker said he claimed Joking when he came down low enough in price that he could afford.

"I had watched him for most of his career and when he got down to my price range we were lucky enough to get him," Baker said.

Baker planned to give Joking the Saratoga meet off, but wanted to run him in the Belmont Park Sprint Championship first. Those plans were scrapped when Joking injured a splint bone.

"The injury wasn't bad and the timing was good," Baker said. "He was always going to get a layoff at Saratoga."

The Vosburgh was the sixth graded win for Franco, a 21-year-old native of Puerto Rico. He had previously won two Grade 2s - the Commonwealth Derby at Laurel Park last week for trainer Chad Brown, and the True North for Baker.