The Breeder’s Cup Juvenile became even more convoluted Saturday as Practical Joke, who is not even nominated for the stakes, overcame a poor start and ran down favored Syndergaard by a nose in the prestigious Champagne Stakes.
New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, for whom Syndergaard is named, was on hand to witness the thrilling stretch run. Syndergaard had the lead for almost the entire race, battling it out with Big Gray Rocket in speedy fractions of 22.74 and 44.63 for a half mile.
Despite the fast pace, Syndergaard hung on while Practical Joke bounced back from his poor start (he was nearly 10 lengths back at one point), and challenged Syndergaard entering the homestretch. The two pulled away from the rest of the field, six lengths in front of everyone else, as they ran as one. It was a photo finish, and Practical Joke bobbed a nose in front at the end.
Practical Joke’s recovery was impressive, but what was more impressive was Syndergaard’s ability to stay with a horse that came from off the torrid pace. Most horses, including Big Gray Rocket, would have folded after such fractions. But he held on until the end – boding well for a possible run at the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile.
As for Practical Joke, he is not nominated for the Juvenile and would have to pay a $100,000 nomination fee. It’s not known whether the owners, Seth Klarman and Bill Lawrence, will pay the nomination fee.
Favorable Outcome finished third; Big Gray Rocket settled for fourth.