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Joking Gets Last Laugh in G2 True North Handicap

ELMONT, N.Y. – Charlton Baker’s Joking got the last laugh, coming from last to first to notch an upset win in the 38th running of the Grade 2, $250,000 True North Handicap at Belmont Park Friday.

The 7-year-old gelded son of Distorted Humor, who is trained by his owner and was making his initial foray into graded stakes company, won his third straight race and second stakes while also giving Baker the first graded stakes victory of his career.

“I’m very impressed. He’s doing great but today he was stepping up. I didn’t know how he’d handle it. I know he’s doing super and then again the track was fast all day. It seemed like speed was dominating,” said Baker.

Dispatched at 9-1 in the field of five sprinters, Joking raced at the back of the pack under Manny Franco as the pace-setting Dad’s Caps set blistering fractions of 22.44 seconds, 44.71 and 55.99. While racing widest of all and with 12-1 shot Dad’s Caps opening up on the field inside the eighth pole, Joking kicked in and powered down the lane to catch the front-runner just before the wire and prevail by a neck in 1:08.04 for six furlongs.

“I was hoping he’d get there. He gives you that kick. He’s got that killer instinct now that he wants to get there,” Baker said.

Dad’s Caps held on for second, three-quarters of a length in front of Holy Boss. Catalina Red, the even-money favorite who contested the pace for the first half-mile, faded to fourth while Always Sunshine completed the order of finish.

“I just rode the way I usually do with him and just sat in the back, and when I was ready to make my move, I did it. It’s the perfect distance for him because they put pace in front of him and he’s coming on from behind. I tried to get out with a good trip and try to take advantage,” said Franco.

Joking, who was bred by Darley in Kentucky, has now won nine of 37 starts and improved his bankroll to $648,638. He returned $21.80 for a $2 win wager.

“I’m not sure of his next start,” said Baker, who was running Joking in the optional claiming ranks before he won the Diablo Stakes two starts back. “Saratoga might be the logical spot but he’s a very tough shipper. He likes his home, he likes it here. We might run him one more time between now and Saratoga and then wait for Belmont.”

The True North Quotes

Charlton Baker, winning owner and trainer of Joking (No. 2):

“I’m very impressed. He’s doing great, but today was [a] step up. I didn’t know how he’d handle it. I know he’s doing super and then again the track was fast all day. It seemed like speed was dominating.”

On his thinking down the stretch:

“I was hoping he’d get there. He gives you that kick. He’s got that killer instinct now that he wants to get there.”

On his next start:

“I’m not sure. Saratoga might be the logical spot but he’s a very tough shipper. He likes his home; he likes it here. We might run him one more time between now and Saratoga and then wait for Belmont.”

Manny Franco, winning jockey of Joking (No. 2): 

“I just rode the way I usually do with him and just sit in the back and when I was ready to make my move, I did it.”

“It’s the perfect distance for him because they put pace in front of him and he’s coming on from behind. I tried to get out with a good trip and try to take advantage.”

NYRA

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