Taking Stock: Practical Joke Is Value

Practical Joke | Coolmore photo


There's a lot that can be gleaned from the freshman sires and leading sires of 2-year-olds lists.

Last year, Coolmore America's Practical Joke (Into Mischief) was second to Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}) on the freshman sire list by progeny earnings, $2,339,717 to $4,315,980. Those numbers were good enough to make Gun Runner the leading sire of 2-year-olds and Practical Joke third, with leading sire Into Mischief splitting the newcomers with $2,971,018. That Practical Joke tied Gun Runner by number of black-type winners with six, tops among all freshman sires, suggested he was passing on some real quality to his 2-year-olds. This year, that's been confirmed: Practical Joke is sixth on the 2-year-old list with earnings of $2,197,908 through Tuesday, and he's the sire of three juvenile black-type winners, including Grade l winner Chocolate Gelato–his first in the Northern Hemisphere–and Grade ll winner Practical Move.

Practical Move won the Gll Los Alamitos Futurity Dec. 17, a race that was expected to be a cakewalk for the Justify (Scat Daddy) colt Arabian Lion. Had the latter won, Justify, who also stands at Coolmore America, would have significantly tightened the race for champion first-crop sire and given the Triple Crown winner a leading seven black-type winners for the year. As it now stands, Justify is third on the freshman list with earnings of $2,398,040 behind Hill 'n' Dale's Good Magic with $2,473,517 and leader Spendthrift's Bolt d'Oro with $2,641,366 (all statistics are through Tuesday and for the Northern Hemisphere only).

On the leading 2-year-old sire list, Into Mischief is on top, followed by Bolt d'Oro (Medaglia d'Oro), Hill 'n' Dale's Violence (Medaglia d'Oro), Good Magic (Curlin), Justify, and Practical Joke.

This puts Practical Joke, who will stand for $25,000 live foal next year, in heady company and makes him a bargain at that. His sire Into Mischief's fee is $250,000. Bolt d'Oro's advertised fee for 2023 is $35,000, but he can't be had for that anymore. He's booked full at the farm price and only a couple of NG seasons are available, with one offered the other day for $42,000–the equivalent of close to $55,000 live foal if converted with insurance. Violence and Good Magic are both advertised at $50,000 and selling fast, and Justify, who was initially advertised at $100,000 for 2023, is now at $150,000 live foal as he closes in on a full book.

Three Chimneys's Gun Runner is listed as private but his fee is in the neighborhood of $300,000.

Gun Runner's first crop has now yielded a surreal total of six Grade l winners, which justifiably makes him the most expensive sire in North America. But so far he has no 2-year-old black-type winners from his second crop, which has earned $1,385,921–good for number 21 on the 2-year-old list that he led last year. In a head-to-head comparison of second-crop juveniles, Practical Joke beats Gun Runner across the board, including by winners (24 to 17), black-type winners, black-type runners (seven to four) and Grade l winners.

As a general rule, second crops don't perform as well as first crops, but Practical Joke has admirably held his form with his second crop by progeny earnings, $2,197,908 versus $2,339,717 from last year.

Practical Joke's performance is also notable compared to the eight stallions who finished behind him on the first-crop Top 10 list last year, listed here by progeny earnings from last year versus this year's figures for their current juveniles: Connect ($2,106,071 vs. $1,235,808 ), Classic Empire ($1,645,824 vs. $818,616), Cupid ($1,303,652 vs. $98,947), Klimt ($1,276,592 vs. $728,861 and exported), Caravaggio ($1,275,118 vs. $191,481 and exported), Gormley ($1,126,007 vs. $553,091), Mohaymen ($1,074,109 vs. $169,044), and deceased Arrogate ($1,069,239 vs. $1,795,218). Only Arrogate's second-crop juveniles outperformed his first.

Stallions frequently cover a lower number of mares in their second year at stud, and these mares are generally of lesser quality than those from their first year, which mostly accounts for this paradigm. Cupid, who also stands at Coolmore America, is a particularly stark example. Last year, he was represented by 123 named 2-year-olds, of which 75 started and 23 won. This year, he has 29 juveniles, eight starters, and two winners.

Expect similar results next year for some of the leading freshman sires of 2022, and pay attention to those like Practical Joke whose numbers don't fall off a cliff with their second crop of 2-year-olds.


Practical Joke's Second Career

Practical Joke, an outstanding physical specimen who stands 16.2 hands, is bred like Life Is Good, one of Into Mischief's most talented racing sons and another physical standout who will cover mares for $100,000 at WinStar next year. Both are out of Distorted Humor mares–Practical Joke's dam is Halo Humor, a black type-placed sprinter–and neither was suited for Classic distances, but both had plenty of talent over shorter trips.

Life Is Good won only a maiden special at two. Practical Joke, trained by Chad Brown for Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence, won three of his four starts as a juvenile, including the Gl Hopeful S. and the Gl Champagne S. His only loss was a third-place finish in the Gl Breeders' Cup Juvenile to Classic Empire and Not This Time.

At three, Practical Joke was put on the Classics trail and performed well enough, even running fifth of 20 in the Gl Kentucky Derby, but he didn't win again until he was cut back in distance. His most notable score that year came in the Gl H. Allen Jerkens S. over seven furlongs.

He was retired to stud in 2018 with a record of five wins from 12 starts and earnings of close to $1.8 million, and he stood for $30,000 his first year. He's been well patronized since.

Like many Coolmore horses, he was also shuttled, in his case to Haras Paso Nevado in Chile, and he's been Gun Runner-like over there with four first-crop Group 1 winners to date. Perhaps the more appropriate comparison is “Scat Daddy-like,” because Paso Nevado also shuttled Coolmore's Scat Daddy, who sired busloads of South American Group 1 winners before he got rolling in the Northern Hemisphere. Two of the four top-level Practical Joke winners in Chile are from Scat Daddy mares, and the other two are from mares by Lookin At Lucky and Powerscourt (GB), two other Coolmore sires that shuttled to Paso Nevado at one time or another.

Meanwhile in the Northern Hemisphere Practical Joke is the sire of 11 black-type winners so far, meaning that some of his stakes-winning 2-year-olds from last year have trained on at three. One of them is Wit, who won the Glll Sanford S., was second in the Hopeful and third in the Champagne. Wit won the Glll Bay Shore S. over seven furlongs earlier this year but has recently transitioned to the turf, on which he won a listed race at Saratoga before placing in the Gl Hollywood Derby at Del Mar over nine furlongs on Dec. 3. The favorite in the race, Wit was beaten by three-quarters of a length for everything.

Another is Girl With a Dream, a listed winner last year who won the Glll Forward Gal S. this year. Practical Joke also has had some first-time 3-year-old stakes winners, like Little Vic, who won the Listed $100,000 City of Laurel S. on Nov. 26.

But horses like Gl Frizette S. winner Chocolate Gelato and Grade ll winner Practical Move, plus the four Group 1 winners in Chile, suggest that Practical Joke has more in the tank, and that's a tantalizing thought, especially at a fee that's below those of the notable young sires he's running with.

Sid Fernando is president and CEO of Werk Thoroughbred Consultants, Inc., originator of the Werk Nick Rating and eNicks.

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