The Champagne Stakes (G1) witnessed an awkward start for undefeated Practical Joke as race leader Syndergaard would open the first quarter in a time of 22.74. Due to the start, Practical Joke was faced with running five lengths behind the leader for much of the race.

Syndergaard would continue his hot pace leading into the far turn, with back-stretch company Big Gray Rocket stalking closely. Looking on was Practical Joke and he had grinded his way to fourth position entering the top of the stretch.

When asked to run in the final turn, Practical Joke followed the rail and increased his stride. The bay colt by Into Mischief made a bold move by bolting off the rail to remain side by side with the talented Syndergaard.

The stretch would find a back and forth duel which would end with an exclamation of ‘too close to call!’ but Practical Joke would prevail by a nose.

Trained by Chad Brown for Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence, Practical Joke earned a nice 97 BRIS Speed rating in the Champagne and will move on to compete in the Breeders’ Cup. He could end up facing both Syndergaard again and his own stablemate Favorable Outcome, who finished third in the Champagne.

Both races are part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series of events that offer points to the top four finishers for a starting berth in next spring’s “Run for the Roses.” The Champagne was worth 10 points to the winner.

The contest was also “Win & “You’re In” race that offered an all-expenses paid trip to Santa Anita Park for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on November 5.

Practical Joke boasts a previous gritty win in a hard-fought Sept. 5 Hopeful Stakes (G1) victory in New York. These tough finishes provide quality lessons for horses and help reveal their heart, competitive spirit and aptitude to compete.

Practical Joke’s sire, Into Mischief, is a multiple graded stakes winner with sons formerly running in the Kentucky Derby.