ELMONT, N.Y. - Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence's Practical Joke was all business as rain began to fall Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park, getting his nose down at the wire to upset 9-5 favorite Syndergaard with a neck victory in the 145th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne for 2-year-olds
Trained by Chad Brown, Practical Joke broke awkwardly and trailed in the field of six as Syndergaard zipped through an opening quarter-mile in 22.74 seconds and a half in 44.63 with Big Gray Rocket nipping at his heels. Under Joel Rosario, Practical Joke quickly regrouped and steadily picked off rivals as the field moved through the turn. Cutting the corner into the stretch, the Into Mischief colt angled to the outside of Syndergaard and latched on to the leader at the eighth pole, outdueling his rival just in time to extend his undefeated record to three.
Sent off at 5-2, the winner returned $7.90 for a $2 win wager. The final time for a mile over a fast track was 1:34.68.
"He kind of broke awkward on the inside and I had to use him a little through the chute," said Rosario. "He was looking around and it took him a little time to get back in the race but he was fine after that. They were going really fast up front but it looks like the more distance he gets to run into the better he gets. For a second when I got to the other horse [Syndergaard] he waited a little bit. He's still a young horse if anything but looks good going forward."
The Champagne was the second Grade 1 victory in as many starts for Practical Joke, who won the Grade 1 Hopeful by a neck on September 5 at Saratoga Race Course. With the $300,000 winner's share of the purse, the $240,000 2-year-old-in-training purchase has increased his lifetime earnings to $559,800.
As part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" series, Practical Joke has punched his ticket with an all-fees-paid berth into the $2 million Sentient Jet Juvenile on November 5 at Santa Anita Park.
Favorable Outcome, also trained by Brown, finished third. Big Gray Rocket, Thirst for Victory and Lookin At Blessing completed the order of finish.
"Joel quickly moved inside of horses, which I thought was smart, and set himself up for a clear run when he tipped him out," said Brown. "They were obviously going very fast in front, not only the two leaders, but my other horse [Favorable Outcome] in close pursuit behind, so the race set up beautifully for this horse. He's undefeated, he's a really good horse. He's handled the distance increases every time we've asked him to, and we're looking forward to getting to run him a little bit further. The runner-up is a very good horse as well, and deserves a lot of credit for fighting as well as he did."
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