With stallion duty at Ashford Stud looming next year, leading 3-year-old Practical Joke aims to end his career unbeaten around one turn in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct.
Practical Joke has run well without winning in two-turn races all year, his efforts including a third-place finish in the Haskell Invitational (G1) and finishing fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) Nov. 4.
He has won at one mile on a one-turn track – doing so in the Dwyer Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park – and it remains to be seen if he’s more effective in the Cigar Mile around one turn than he was in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile around two turns.
If Practical Joke is to win, he’ll need to turn the form around with Sharp Azteca, who finished 4 ¾ lengths in front of him in the Dirt Mile.
Sharp Azteca has been exceptionally consistent in the past 12 months, but he’s come up just short in his three attempts at grade one races. In December last year he was run down late in the seven-furlong Malibu Stakes by Mind Your Biscuits; then in June he was a distant second to Mor Spirit in the Metropolitan Handicap (G1), though well clear of the rest.
He put up another brave effort in the Dirt Mile, finding only the 3-year-old Battle of Midway too good. He will be tough again in the Cigar Mile.
Mind Your Biscuits, third in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1), tackles a mile for the first time since his 2-year-old days. If he has the necessary stamina, he will be a good chance. He probably needs a quiet ride.
Tom’s Ready is in form after winning the seven-furlong Oct. 28 Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) at his last start; he should go well again, though he has twice found Sharp Azteca too sharp for him this season. Also backing up from the Bold Ruler are third-place finisher Beasley and fourth-place finisher Seymourdini, who should appreciate the extra furlong.
Heading over from the West Coast is Americanize, who steps up to graded stakes company for the first time. He won the seven-furlong Damascus Stakes at Del Mar Nov. 3.
The field is completed by Summer Revolution, a Belmont Park allowance winner Oct. 26 at his first 2017 race; Vulcan’s Forge, second in an Aqueduct allowance Nov. 12; and Philip H. Iselin Stakes (G3) winner Just Call Kenny.
Sharp Azteca will be a deserved favorite and will be hard to beat if he’s still at his peak. Practical Joke should be tough, while Mind Your Biscuits is a chance if he stays. Americanize is worth a thought at odds.