09/05/2016 6:14PM

Practical Joke wins Hopeful Stakes to cap Brown's big meet

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

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – The Grade 1 Hopeful was eventful from start to beyond the finish, but when it was over, it had a most appropriate ending as Chad Brown and Jose Ortiz were standing in the Saratoga winner’s circle on closing day.

Practical Joke rallied three wide in the stretch and ran down the pacesetting pair of Royal Copy and Pretty Boy Flash to win Monday’s $350,000 Hopeful by a neck. Royal Copy, whose jockey, Luis Saez, dropped his whip at the sixteenth pole, got second by a nose over Pretty Boy Flash.

It was 6 3/4 lengths farther back to Bitumen, who was followed by Everybodyluvsrudy and Runaway Lute.

Classic Empire, the 8-5 favorite, veered out leaving the gate and unseated jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., who fell to the ground. Ortiz actually got up and caught the horse. Classic Empire was vanned off after “exhibiting mild lameness,” according to New York Racing Association veterinarian Anthony Verderosa.

Mark Casse, the trainer of Classic Empire, said later that the horse hit himself on the right foreleg but is okay.

After the wire, Runaway Lute, who finished last, fell down, unseating jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.  Runaway Lute was deemed fine by his trainer, Gary Contessa. Santana, who was down on the track for a few minutes, got up and was cleared to ride the last race.

Meanwhile, Practical Joke gave Brown his 40th win of the meet, a training record for a 40-day Saratoga season. It was also Brown’s first Grade 1 victory on dirt with a male horse. His other two Grade 1 winners on dirt were Awesome Feather in the Gazelle Stakes and Wavell Avenue in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

It was the 65th win of the meet for Jose Ortiz, who won his first Saratoga riding title by eight wins over his brother Irad. It was also Ortiz’s first Grade 1 win of the meet.

Practical Joke, a son of Into Mischief, raced inside of Bitumen while Pretty Boy Flash and Royal Copy set a moderate pace of 23.80 seconds for the quarter and 47.69 for the half-mile.

Ortiz began to ask his horse at the three-furlong pole and swung him three wide approaching the top of the stretch. Meanwhile, Royal Copy, on the inside, and Pretty Boy Flash, on the outside under John Velazquez, were still running in the stretch.

In the final furlong, Practical Joke started gaining on the leading duo, and he was able to run them down late.

“He gave me a great turn of foot when I put him in the clear, but then the other two horses, they went so slow in front that they kept fighting,” Ortiz said. “As soon as he put the head in front, he kept going.”

Practical Joke, owned by Seth Klarman and Bill Lawrence, covered the seven furlongs in 1:23.39 and returned $6.20 as the second choice.

Brown said he’s been impressed with Practical Joke’s professionalism from Day 1.

“For a baby, as well as he ran first time out, as fast he ran on all [speed] figures, I’ve never seen this horse rattled at any moment since he came in the barn,” Brown said. “So professional, and he showed his class today. He was in a box today most of the way, he never panicked, and neither did Jose.”