10/29/2016 2:44PM

Practical Joke, Syndergaard work five furlongs for Breeders' Cup Juvenile

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Barbara D. Livingston
Practical Joke, ridden by Jose Ortiz, wins the Hopeful Stakes by a neck.

ELMONT, N.Y. – The depth of this year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile field is such that Practical Joke, an undefeated multiple Grade 1 winner, is the co-third choice with two others at 6-1 on the morning line of Daily Racing Form’s Mike Watchmaker.

Chad Brown, the trainer of Practical Joke, is unfazed.

When he watches Practical Joke train, he sees a horse who is thriving entering next Saturday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.

On Saturday over Belmont Park’s main track, Practical Joke worked five furlongs in 1:01.58 in company with Devine Union, a 2-year-old maiden filly. The exercise rider of Practical Joke had plenty of horse as the pair came to the wire and the Champagne and Hopeful stakes winner galloped out a strong six furlongs in 1:14.23.

“I’m thrilled with how that horse is coming into the race,” Brown said. “He’s a horse that’s constantly improving. That was just easy for him.”

Practical Joke won the Hopeful by a neck and the Champagne by a nose. The horse he beat in the Champagne, Syndergaard, is also running back in the Juvenile.

On Saturday, Syndergaard worked a solid five furlongs in 1:00.88 over the Belmont Park training track under jockey John Velazquez. Syndergaard went off an opening eighth in 13.41 seconds, got his opening quarter in 25.90, and came home his last three furlongs in 34.98 seconds under minimal urging. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.73 and seven furlongs in 1:26.31.

“I don’t see how a horse could breeze any better than that,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He finished good, galloped out great. We’ve seen a couple of those kinds of works that gives us confidence he’ll handle a mile and a sixteenth. As demanding a race as the Champagne was, it seems like it’s brought him forward.”

Theory, the Pletcher-trained winner of the six-furlong Belmont Futurity two weeks ago, worked a half-mile over the training track in 49.52 seconds in company with Ready Dancer. Theory went off a quick opening quarter in 24.19 seconds, and Pletcher, via two-way radio, cautioned jockey Javier Castellano about going too fast.

“What’s cool about the horse is when I told Javier that, you could see he slowed him down, and the horse was very manageable and very cooperative with whatever he asked him to do,” Pletcher said. “Then he finished in 49-and-2. I thought the quarter-mile gallop-out was very good. We just ran two weeks ago. Running back in three weeks, we didn’t want to overdo it. I thought we got what we were hoping for.”

Elliott Walden, president, chief executive, and racing manager for WinStar Farm, which owns Theory in partnership with the China Horse Club and SF Racing, was at Belmont to watch the work. He said nothing he saw dissuaded him from going on to the Juvenile.

At Santa Anita on Saturday, Not This Time, the winner of the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs, worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 for the Juvenile.

“He worked great, started off slow, finished fast, galloped out strong,” trainer Dale Romans said.

Romans has exuded nothing but confidence in Not This Time.

“I have no worries right now,” Romans said. “If he gets beat, it’s simply because he wasn’t the best horse.”

Also working for the Juvenile at Santa Anita on Saturday was Gormley, the winner of the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes, who went six furlongs in 1:16.46, according to DRF’s Mike Welsch.

At Keeneland, Star Empire, second to Theory in the Belmont Futurity, worked five furlongs in 1:00.