SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Trainer Chad Brown and jockey Jose Ortiz put the finishing touches on their championship summers on closing day at Saratoga Race Course, teaming up to win the 112th running of the Grade 1, $350,000 Hopeful with the late-running Practical Joke.
Practical Joke’s half-length win over Royal Copy gave Brown his record 40th victory of the meet and Ortiz his 65th winner during the 40-day span, with both having clinched their respective titles earlier.
The seven-furlong Hopeful took a dramatic twist at the start, when 6-5 favorite Classic Empire appeared to veer out, losing jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. and leaving Royal Copy and Pretty Boy Flash to duke it out on the lead through an opening quarter-mile in 23.80 seconds, with the half going in 47.69.
Jose Ortiz, meanwhile, saved ground aboard Practical Joke in third, angling out only when the remaining six 2-year-olds were straightened out at the top of the lane. The Into Mischief colt responded with a solid late run to nab the embattled pacesetters in the final jumps and win by a neck.
His time was 1:23.39 and he returned $x for a $2 bet.
“I’m very grateful to win the Hopeful, it’s a Grade 1, on a promising 2-year-old like Practical Joke,” said Ortiz. “He’s got tactical speed, he can run close to the pace, and he fired when I asked him to run. The pace was pretty slow. I thought about taking the lead as soon as we broke because I knew we were going so slow. But something told me, don’t do it, and the trip worked out perfect.
“He was running the whole way,” he added. “He gave me a great turn of foot when I got him in the clear but the other two horses were in front and they kept fighting a little bit. As soon as he put a head in front, he kept going.”
The victory was the second in as many starts for Practical Joke, who carries the colors of Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence. The $240,000 yearling purchase was a five-length winner of his debut at the Spa on August 6.
“It’s been a pleasure to train him,” said Brown of Practical Joke, who earned $210,000 for the win. “That first race I thought he ran well and his second time here he also came back to run a huge race. He was able to sit off and track the pace. Jose gave him an unbelievable ride and he looked like he was extending away in the stretch. So, I don’t think any added distance will be an issue.”
Brown said the Grade 1, $500,000 Champagne on October 8 at Belmont Park would likely be the colt’s next start.
Finishing a nose behind Royal Copy was Pretty Boy Flash. It was another 6 ¾ lengths back to Bitumen, who was followed under the wire by Everybodyluvsrudy and Runaway Lute.