Practical Joke Ready to Get Serious in $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) Made You Look Aims to Bring Turf Form to Dirt in Fountain of Youth
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Winter vacation for Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Practical Joke formally ends Saturday when the multiple Grade 1 winner makes his highly anticipated return to the races in the $400,000 Xpressbet.com Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
The bay son of Into Mischief has not run since capping his juvenile season finishing third behind eventual 2-year-old male champion Classic Empire in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 5 at Santa Anita. He shows seven breezes since mid-January at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream’s satellite training facility in Palm Beach County, most recently going a half-mile in 48 seconds Feb. 26, third-fastest of 41 horses.
“He has done really well with the time off. We just backed off him a little bit and let him grow up some,” trainer Chad Brown said. “He was always an outstanding looking horse, but he has gotten bigger and stronger. I’m so impressed with him. His works have been great. He’s really enjoying being down here.”
Given the way Practical Joke has blossomed since arriving in South Florida, Brown targeted the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth for the colt’s sophomore debut rather than ship out of town for another prep on the Triple Crown trail.
“Ultimately, I decided on the Fountain of Youth because I didn’t want to move the horse from where he is doing so well,” Brown said. “He is thriving down here and I wanted him to stay down here.”
A $240,000 yearling purchase in September 2015, Practical Joke debuted with a five-length victory going six furlongs last August at Saratoga and came back four weeks later to capture the seven-furlong Hopeful (G1) by a neck.
Stretched out to a mile for his next start, the Champagne (G1) at Belmont Park, Practical Joke rallied from off the pace again to prevail by a nose over the similarly well-regarded Syndergaard. In the Breeders’ Cup Classic he was jostled at the start and raced wide to the half-mile pole, looming a threat at the top of the stretch before settling for third.
Brown said he would not be surprised to see Practical Joke laying a little closer in the Fountain of Youth due to the layoff and his recent training. Reunited with jockey Jose Ortiz, last aboard in the Hopeful, he will break from Post 6 in the field of 11 and is rated second on the morning line at 3-1.
“I could see him being a little sharper in this race. He’s definitely been on his toes in the morning,” he said. “I think he’s going to run really well. Going two turns off a layoff like this is a tall order, and I understand that. As long as he runs well, I’ll be happy to build off this. The way he is training, I would expect him to run well.”
The Fountain of Youth is the last of 13 races on a blockbuster card that features nine stakes, eight graded, worth $1.5 million in purses. First race post time is noon, with a 6:05 p.m. post for the Fountain of Youth.
Made You Look Aims to Bring Turf Form to Dirt in Fountain of Youth
Already a multiple graded stakes winner on turf, Three Chimneys Farm and Lets’ Go Stable’s Made You Look will be trying dirt for the first time in the Fountain of Youth.
Trainer Todd Pletcher feels Made You Look’s pedigree should lend itself to a smooth transition to dirt. Both his sire, More Than Ready, and grandsire, Unbridled’s Song, were multiple graded stakes winners on dirt whose success includes victories at Gulfstream.
More Than Ready, also trained by Pletcher, won the Hutcheson (G2) in 2000 while Unbridled’s Song ran second in the Hutcheson and Fountain of Youth (G2) before winning the Florida Derby (G1) in 1996.
Made You Look has trained consistently over the dirt at Palm Beach Downs, with a final half-mile breeze in 47.40 seconds Feb. 25, the fastest of 28 horses, heading into the Fountain of Youth.
“I thought in particular [his last] work was the best I’ve seen him go on dirt,” Pletcher said. “He’s a son of More Than Ready who gets runners on all surfaces, and his granddam is Serena’s Song so there’s a lot of reasons to think he could dirt. At some point, we want to test it. You just have to pick a spot and hope he runs well.”
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez has the mount for the first time from Post 9. Made You Look made his first six starts on the grass including a two-length triumph in the 1 1/16-mile With Anticipation (G2) at Saratoga.
After finishing sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), he opened his sophomore season with a 2 ½-length win in the 7 ½-furlong Dania Beach (G3) at Gulfstream. Last time out, he was third by a length following a troubled trip in the Kitten’s Joy Feb. 4.
“Made You Look has run well every time. He had kind of a tough trip in his last race,” Pletcher said. “It seemed early on we had the opportunity to try him on both surfaces and he ran well on the grass. He won the With Anticipation so once he did that, we were kind of focused on the Breeders’ Cup. It’s always been our intention to put him on the dirt at some point; we’re just kind of waiting for the right opportunity.”
Watershed Set to Make Grass Debut in $200,000 Mac Diarmida (G2)
Having transitioned Dickinson from a useful dirt horse to a graded stakes winner on turf already this winter, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is looking for similar success with Godolphin Racing’s Watershed in Saturday’s $200,000 Mac Diarmida.
The 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida for 4-year-olds and up attracted a competitive field of 12 that also includes Grade 1 winners Twilight Eclipse and Wake Forest and graded winners Danish Dynaformer, Flatlined, Reporting Star, Charming Kitten, Mr Maybe, Bigger Picture and Taghleeb.
Watershed was entered in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming turf race Jan. 29 at Gulfstream but the race was switched off the grass to a sloppy and sealed main track, where the 5-year-old son of Bernardini coasted to a 9 ½-length victory.
“We wanted to run him on the turf the last time and it got rained off. We just want to try turf,” McLaughlin said. “He’s out of an all-turf female family. He works well on it and we’re going to give it a try. If it rains off we’ll be OK with that, too.”
Watershed has breezed four times since early January over the Palm Meadows turf course, including a sharp five-furlong move in 1:00.90 Feb. 17, second-fastest of 13 horses. He drew Post 10 and will be ridden for the first time by Paco Lopez.
On Jan. 14, Godolphin’s Dickinson earned her first graded triumph in Suwannee River (G3) at Gulfstream. It was the 5-year-old mare’s third win from four starts since being moved to the grass last fall.
In 12 career starts, Watershed has four wins, three thirds and $280,550 in purse earnings. He is graded stakes-placed, having run third in the Iselin (G3) last summer at Monmouth Park and the Firebreak (G3) last February in Dubai.
“He’s a nice horse but has not been consistently good. Hopefully he’ll like the turf,” McLaughlin said. “That’s why we want to give it a try. If he likes it, we’ll have a chance at a nice future with him.”