Thomas F. Conway and Mike Maker's Mr. Prankster trailed in last from his outside post during the opening quarter of Saturday's $50,000 WEBN Stakes at Turfway Park, but steadily made up ground to challenge after six furlongs, take command and easily draw off to score by 7 1/2 lengths under jockey John McKee. In the process, the It's No Joke colt took another step forward to the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes on March 24 while emphatically answering the two-turn question.
Mr. Prankster, the 9-5 favorite, paid $5.80, $3.20 and $2.80 for finishing the one-mile Polytrack event in 1:39. In his only previous route race, the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs, Mr. Prankster was a thoroughly beaten last of 11. That race was in November, however, a lifetime ago in the development of a young colt.
"Yes, I was worried about the distance," said Maker, who also trains the bay colt. "But last time (he ran a route distance) he came off a layoff and he had some issues in-between. And obviously the competition (in the graded race) was stiffer than it was today. So I thought it was worth a shot today because, one, I'm half-owner and I stable here, and two, he ran well over the Polytrack at Presque Isle so I thought I'd keep him here for the stakes and try (two turns) again."
The Turfway track has not been kind to speed the last few days, but Maker believes the colt's closing win was his own doing.
"Given the margin of victory, I don't think that was a factor," he said.
Mr. Prankster broke last from the far outside post but not by much, as the field of nine jumped out together. Sunday Mass set the first quarter in :23 3/5 while pressed by Tiz Tee Time and Phantom Fury, and it was Phantom Fury who set the half-mile mark in :46 3/5. Mr. Prankster settled inside in sixth nearly seven lengths off the lead through the half but moved outside to make his move on the final turn, easily took the lead a few strides before the eighth-pole and drew off at will.
"We all broke in one pack, and if I'm 12-wide around the turn, it's not going to make me look any good," McKee said. "So I eased my horse back, let the speed go, and angled down to save some ground on the first turn. Down the backside he was taking me wherever I wanted to go. Turning for home I asked him, and he was there. He gave me two or three gears at one time.
"I was shocked (he got the two turns so easily), but really his bloodline shows he can get it."
Phantom Fury was best of the rest, with Magical Season following in third. Completing the order of finish in the WEBN were Frankie is Rock, Tiz Tee Time, Sunday Mass, Hand I Was Dealt, Tigerdude and Texas Josh. Antique Wedding scratched.
Mr. Prankster was bred in Kentucky by Colby Fields LLC & Greg and Valorie Scherr. Conway purchased the colt for $40,000 at last year's OBS June sale, and the colt has more than earned his purchase price back having banked $118,372 in lifetime earnings. Included in his 6-3-2-0 career mark is a win in the Turfway Prevue Stakes on January 7 and a second in the Fitz Dixon Jr. Memorial Juvenile Stakes.
The WEBN Stakes is the second of three local preps for the Spiral, itself a prep for the Kentucky Derby on May 5 at Churchill Downs. Having now captured both the Turfway Prevue, the first local prep, and the WEBN, Maker expects to bring his charge back for the third, the John Battaglia Memorial on March 3.