10/11/2016 9:14AM

Sparkman: Practical Joke is Into Mischief's latest serious runner

Barbara D. Livingston
Practical Joke (left) gets up to beat Syndergaard in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes.

Naming Thoroughbred racehorses is very much an art rather than a science, but one suspects that there is a very good story behind the name of the rapidly rising young sire Into Mischief.

Unlike many well-named horses, there are no strong clues in his pedigree. Into Mischief is by Harlan’s Holiday out of Leslie’s Lady, by Tricky Creek, and exactly how one gets the name Into Mischief out of that remains a mystery to everyone except perhaps B. Wayne Hughes, who purchased him for $180,000 at the 2007 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s March sale of selected 2-year-olds in training.

The opposite is true of the most recent of Into Mischief’s growing list of significant contributions to the Thoroughbred breed, the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes winner Practical Joke, whose dam and broodmare sire, Halo Humor and Distorted Humor, also contribute to the appropriateness of his name.

Bred in Kentucky by James T. Hines, Into Mischief was sold for $80,000 to Gage Hill Stable at the 2006 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale before being pinhooked to the OBS March sale of selected 2-year-olds in training the following year. Trained by Richard Mandella, he won his first start that October at Santa Anita, but was beaten by Massive Drama in the Grade 3 Prevue Stakes. He got his revenge on that horse in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity, winning by 1 1/4 lengths over Colonel John with Massive Drama third.

Second in the San Vicente Stakes in his first start at 3, Into Mischief injured his left hind hoof and did not race again until winning the seven-furlong Damascus Stakes at Santa Anita in October. Into Mischief then finished second in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes behind Bob Black Jack, and that proved to be his last start. He was retired to Hughes’s Spendthrift Farm for the 2009 breeding season at a fee of $12,500.

A very handsome, beautifully balanced horse and a lovely mover, Into Mischief made only six starts. Though Harlan’s Holiday was certainly successful, he was not widely regarded as a potential sire of sires. As a result, Into Mischief’s first crop included only 41 named foals, but seven of those (17 percent) won stakes, led by two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents (out of Goldenworks, by Bankers Gold), Canadian champion Miss Mischief (Kid Magic, by Lemon Drop Kid), and Grade 2 winner Vyjack (Life Happened, by Stravinsky).

That early success inevitably attracted more and better mares to Into Mischief’s book, and Practical Joke is one of the first signs that Into Mischief’s upward mobility is likely to be confirmed. Bred in Kentucky by Whispering Oaks, he is the fifth named foal and first stakes winner out of Halo Humor, a Distorted Humor mare who won two of five starts and placed in the Lil Liza Jayne Stakes at Evangeline Downs.

That may not be the most impressive credential among the mares in Into Mischief’s more recent books, and neither is that she is half-sister to Louisiana-bred stakes winner Cubera, by Cape Canaveral. In fact, one has to search back to Practical Joke’s fourth dam, stakes winner Careless Moment, by Baffle, before one can find a really good horse in the family. Careless Moment is the dam of multiple graded stakes winner Moment of Hope, by Timeless Moment, and of Grade 3 winner Aggressive Bid, by Bold L. B. She is a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Dunham’s Gift, by Winged T.

Sold for $135,000 to Clear Ridge Stables at the 2015 Keeneland January sale, Practical Joke was pinhooked to the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale, where he was sold to Aquinnah Ventures for $240,000. He races for Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence, and is trained by Chad Brown. Halo Humor has not produced a live foal since Practical Joke, whose 3-for-3 record also includes a victory in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes.

Into Mischief has now sired 18 stakes winners from his 318 foals of racing age, a number that will surely rise rapidly now that the foals from his larger crops are starting to race. He has added graded stakes winners Vicar’s in Trouble (Vibrant, by Vicar), Best Behavior (Queenship, by Line in the Sand), Strict Compliance (Diva Dyna, by Grand Slam), and Can the Man (Smolensk, by Danzig) to his list of important runners, and there will surely be more to come.

Into Mischief’s pedigree also has improved through the exploits of his half-sister Beholder, by Henny Hughes, and that improvement was reflected in the sale-topping $3 million Coolmore paid for his yearling half-brother by Scat Daddy at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale.

That kind of money is no joke, practical or otherwise.