By Najja Thompson —-
ELMONT, NY. – Cutting back in distance and set to make his first start since finishing fifth in the Kentucky Derby, Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Practical Joke will lead a field of five in the Grade 3, $400,000 Dwyer for 3-year-olds at one mile on Saturday at Belmont Park.
One of five stakes races on the day comprising the fourth annual Stars & Stripes Racing Festival, the Dwyer will kick off the day’s stakes action including the Grade 1, $1.2 million Belmont Derby, the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Oaks, the Grade 2, $350,000 Belmont Sprint and the Grade 2, $750,000 Suburban Handicap.
Purchased for $240,000 as a yearling at the Keeneland September sale, the son of Into Mischeif won his debut in Saratoga, wheeling off three consecutive victories, including a win in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont before closing out 2-year-old season with a third-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Kicking off his 3-year-old campaign with a runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream, Practical Joke followed up with another second-place running in the Grade 2 Bluegrass before his start in the Derby.
Unbeaten in three one-turn starts, trainer Chad Brown said he is encouraged with how Practical Joke has been training.
“We gave him a little freshening and he’s been training really well,” said Brown. “I’m excited to get him back to the races and I expect him to run well.”
With Joel Rosario aboard, the pair will leave from post 3.
Entering for trainer Todd Pletcher and St. Elias Stable is Battalion Runner. A $700,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland, the son of Unbridled’s Song was previously on the Kentucky Derby trail with a second-place finish in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial before his connections declined to enter due to common ownership with eventual winner Always Dreaming.
Previous to that race, he won back-to-back races at Gulfstream including breaking his maiden at seven furlongs by 8 ¾ lengths in his second start and followed up with a an optional-claiming win on February 3.
“He’s doing well,” said Pletcher. “I think a one-turn mile is a good place to get him back started again and hopefully build from there. He’s got good tactical speed and is versatile enough that, depending on how the race unfolds; he can be prominent without being on the lead.”
With Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons, Battalion Runner will depart from post 2.
Rounding out the field is Giuseppe the Great for Hall of Famer Nick Zito; and Mossarosa who enters off an impressive second-place finish in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on Belmont Stakes Day in which he received a 95 Beyer Speed Figure; Tale of Silence for owner Charles Fipke and trainer Barclay Tagg, who will look to rebound off a fifth-place running in the Easy Goer on June 10; and True Timber for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Calumet Farm, who most recently ran third in the Sir Barton at Pimlico Race course on May 20.
Cover Photo: Practical Joke; Chelsea Durand Photo