ELMONT, N.Y. -- In what trainer Chad Brown called "the best race he's ever run," Practical Joke exploded down the center of the track to a two-length victory over 43-1 outsider Tale of Silence in Saturday's $400,000 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park.
Making his first start since finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby, Practical Joke raced within easy striking distance of the pace-setting Battalion Runner while saving ground early in the one-mile Dwyer. Practical Joke had to steady along some while awaiting clearance turning for home, eased outside the leaders upon settling into the stretch, then readily ran away from his four rivals once finally able to be set down by jockey Joel Rosario inside the eighth pole.
Tale of Silence ranged up outside the leaders to challenge for command near the furlong grounds but proved no match for the winner. He did hold on gamely to finish second, a neck in front of the tiring Battalion Runner. Giuseppe the Great came up empty in the final furlong and finished another length back in fourth, with True Timber bringing up the rear in a field of just five 3-year-olds.
Practical Joke won the Grade 3 Dwyer despite carrying the high weight of 123 pounds under the allowance conditions of the race, conceding six to eight pounds to his rivals. The win was his first since capturing the Grade 1 Champagne here nine months ago.
Practical Joke, a son of Into Mischief, is owned by the partnership of Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence. He covered the distance over a fast track in 1:35.16 and paid $3.50.
"The pace wasn't that strong, and he did get jammed up there turning for home," said Brown. "And the horse overcame it all. On top of that, he was giving six to eight pounds to everyone in the race. He really ran well today."
Brown said he will take a "hard look" at the $1 million Haskell at Monmouth Park on July 30.
"I know it comes back a little bit quick, but that's the race I had in mind," said Brown. "I still think this horse can get a mile and one-eighth -- that's about it, but I think he can if he gets the right pace setup in front of him."
Trainer Barclay Tagg was smiling following the game performance of Tale of Silence, who had failed to hit the board in three previous stakes outings.
"He doesn't get out of the gate well -- that's one of the things we still haven't been able to straighten out with him," said Tagg. "But we thought he was good and fit coming into the race, and while his numbers didn't match up with the others, he put in a really good race, definitely his best yet."