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Becky’s Joker Pulls Off Upset in Spa’s Schuylerville


If there was a joke being performed on Saratoga Race Course within the a hundred and fifth operating of the Schuylerville Stakes (G3), nobody bought it however a choose few.

Coach Gary Contessa was laughing, and so was proprietor Lee Pokoik. You might need gotten a chuckle out of jockey Javier Castellano, too.

Becky’s Joker, b, 2/f

Sensible Joke — Becky’s Finest, by Elusive High quality

Proprietor: Room, Lee
Breeder: Warren J Harang (KY)

Coach: Gary C. Contessa

Jockey: Javier Castellano

Info supplied by Equibase at time of entry.

Pedigree Notes

Sensible Joke stands at Ashford Stud for $25,000 (2023).

Sale Historical past

KEESEP2022 • ($50,000 RNA) • Consignor: Taylor Made Gross sales Company.

KEENOV2021 • $130,000 • Consignor: Elm Tree Farm • Purchaser: Lee Pokoik.

That is as a result of their 2-year-old filly Becky’s Joker was a stunning runaway winner within the first of the meet’s 43 graded stakes in entrance of an introduced crowd of 29,102.

On the finish of the six furlongs, Becky’s Joker, making her profession debut, was a 3 1/4-length winner at odds of 21-1. She was the second-longest value within the discipline of seven. Dancing Diana , Mila Junes, Status Seeker , and Union Suit  were scratched.

“I knew that physically, she was as good as anything in this race,” Contessa said. “She trained like a stakes horse, but you never know what’s going to happen once the gates open.”

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Once a mainstay on the New York circuit, this was the first Saratoga win for Contessa since July 24, 2019. In March 2020, he left the New York training game but resurfaced as a private trainer at Delaware Park for Nick and Delora Beaver’s Bell Gable Stable.

Contessa, who also has worked as a bloodstock agent, knew he had to get back to the backstretch. Training horses is what he wants to do. He has a barn of 12 horses and is stabled on the Oklahoma Training Track; he has been there since May.

“This feels right,” Contessa said. “I tell my wife every day, ‘I know you want me to be a real estate agent, I know you want me to be a brain surgeon.’ But I just really want to train horses. My lifeblood is training horses, that is what I want to be. There is nothing better than this.”

Two years ago, Contessa purchased Becky’s Joker, a daughter of Practical Joke , as a weanling for $130,000 on the Keeneland November Breeding Inventory Sale.

“We all the time attempt to promote them as yearlings,” Contessa mentioned. “If they do not promote as yearlings, we promote them as a 2-year-old.”

Solely downside, which turned out to not be so unhealthy in any respect, was that nobody needed to purchase her. Contessa mentioned everybody thought she was too massive at 16.3 fingers, and he bought the filly again.

Now, he and Pokoik have one other stakes winner. Pokoik says they’ve been collectively for 35 years. They teamed as much as win the 2018 Spinaway Stakes (G1), which was Contessa’s final graded win earlier than this one.

Becky’s Joker’ trainer gives the race fans high fives after  she won the 105th running of The Schuylerville on opening day at the Saratoga Race Course July 13, 2023 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Photo   by Skip Dickstein

Photograph: Skip Dickstein

Gary Contessa offers race followers excessive fives after Becky’s Joker received the Schuylerville Stakes at Saratoga Race Course

“I attempted promoting this one twice,” Pokoik mentioned. “This occurred earlier than once I received the Spinaway with Sippican Harbor . No one wanted her, either.”

See, the joke was on everyone back then, too.

After a sluggish start in the Schuylerville, Castellano got Becky’s Joker into the game. She moved into position and sat fourth behind carmelina , Saratoga Secret , and even-money favorite Wine On Tap . Nearing the quarter pole, Becky’s Joker accelerated, moved between horses, and spurted away to win easily.

“She was very professional,” Castellano said. “She was right behind the horses and she covered up a bit. I liked the move at the quarter pole when she split horses and took off.”

Owner of Becky’s Joker Lee Pokoik, left  in the winner’s circle with jockey Javier Castellano after winning the 105th running of The Schuylerville on opening day at the Saratoga Race Course July 13, 2023 in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Photo   by Skip DicksteinPhoto: Skip Dickstein

Connections of Becky’s Joker in the winner’s circle

Saratoga Secret and jockey Luis Saez finished second, 3½ lengths in front of Closing Act and Tyler Gaffalione. Irad Ortiz Jr. – Wine On Tap finished fourth.

“Yes, I was surprised at the winner,” said Saratoga Secret’s Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas. “But I think we beat some good horses. We don’t have to hang our heads. We beat some damn good ones.”

Becky’s Joker, who will likely target the $300,000 Spinaway Stakes (G1) on Sept. 3, ran the six furlongs in 1:12.52 and paid $44.40.

Video: Schuylerville S. (G3)


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