ELMONT, N.Y. - Joking captured the $350,000 Vosburgh on Saturday at Belmont Park to record his first Grade 1 victory and in the process earned an all-fees-paid trip to the Breeders' Cup Sprint as part of the "Win and You're In" challenge series.
Owned and trained by Charlton Baker, the 7-year-old bay gelding won for the fourth consecutive time.
Jockey Manny Franco used a ground-saving trip early to keep Joking off 6-5 favorite X Y Jet's fast fractions of 21.59 and 44.12 seconds to pace the field of seven.
Coming off the turn, Joking moved six-wide to surpass Weekend Hideaway and Holy Boss before a final push in deep stretch overtook Stallwalkin' Dude by a length in hitting the wire in 1:09.18 for the six-furlong sprint on the muddy and sealed main track.
"I rode him like I always do," said Franco, who also registered his first career Grade 1 win. "I just let him go on his own, sit in the back and make one move when I think it's the right time. Charlie said to ride him like I want. I know the horse and I get along with him. When he got in the clear, he gave me a big kick like always. That's normal for him. When he gets clear, he just wants to run."
Joking, off at 4-1, paid $10 on a $2 win wager. He is 4-1-1 in his last six starts and improved his career earnings to $686,138.
"Super, that's the word to describe it," Baker said. "We're definitely going to go on the Breeders' Cup [Sprint] from here. It's been an unbelievable year. Winning a Grade 2 here [True North] and coming back to win a Grade 1 and having a chance to win one more has been good.
"He's gotten a lot calmer," he added. "He's definitely matured with age. He used to a horse that was always jittery. He would get all sweaty but he's gotten calmer as he's gotten older."
Joking entered having won three straight through incrementally difficult levels, first winning against allowance company on April 13 before a victory in the Diablo on May 8. His neck victory in the Grade 2 True North - for his first career graded stakes score- last out on June 10 precipitated a four-month layoff as he rested an injured splint bone.
"He was always going to get a layoff for Saratoga," Baker said. "The plan was always to never go there with him and the splint issue he had the timing just worked out good to give him that time off. I actually wanted to run him in the Belmont [Grade 3] Sprint [Championship] because I think that's his best distance, seven-eighths but unfortunately it didn't work out bet we were able to come back for this race and it worked out great."
Franco has two career Grade 2 wins on his resume with both coming this year. Joking has accounted for one-third of his six career graded stakes wins.
"I feel blessed," Franco said. "That's what all jockeys want to do, win a Grade 1. I'm so happy."
Stallwalkin' Dude, trained by David Jacobson, was second. Weekend Hideaway, trained by Philip Serpe, came in third.
Holy Boss, X Y Jet, Dannie's Deceiver and Green Gratto completed the order of finish.
A.P. Indian, the morning-line favorite for trainer Arnaud Delacour, was scratched.
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