What will Wit do for an encore in the Hopeful?

What will Wit do for an encore in the Hopeful?
Photo: Dan Heary/Eclipse Sportswire

In a race meet full of impressive performances this summer at Saratoga, few were more breathtaking than what Wit did in the Sanford Stakes (G2). The final margin was eight lengths, but the way the son of Practical Joke powered by his opposition was that of a horse absolutely toying with his overmatched competition.

Of course, the performance came as no big surprise. Coming off a big debut win, the Todd Pletcher-trained 2-year-old colt was hammered down to 11-10 in his stakes debut. He outran even those odds. Eagerly awaiting an encore at the Spa, we will get to see what Wit can do in his third lifetime start when he returns on Labor Day for the Hopeful Stakes (G1).

Owned by Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable and Gainesway Farm, Wit has impressed all along. A $575,000 Keeneland September sale purchase, he was the most expensive of 74 yearlings to be sold from the first crop of Into Mischief’s talented son, Practical Joke.

Bred in Kentucky by Rosilyn Polan, Wit was produced by the Medaglia d’Oro mare Numero d’Oro. This makes him a half brother to the Pacific Northwest fan favorite, Barkley. A son of Munnings, he was the winner of the 2018 Longacres Mile (G3), among many other stakes races in Washington state.

Said to have separated himself from all the other young horses on the farm, Wit made his coming out party as an overwhelming favorite in a field of eight in a maiden special weight at Belmont Park on June 5. Several hours before Essential Quality and Hot Rod Charlie put on a show in the final leg of the Triple Crown, it was Wit who made quite an impression to begin the afternoon.

A tardy break left Wit looking like anything but a 2-5 choice in the early stages of the 5 1/2-furlong affair. As it turns out, there was nothing to worry about as he launched an eye-catching rally on the far turn. Sweeping by horses on the outside, he took over early in the stretch and kept it going down the Belmont lane on his way to a most impressive 6-length score.

The last-to-first score is not the way most big-margin maiden races are won, which made the debut performance that much more impressive. The untested dark bay had gotten dirt kicked in his face early and took it all in stride.

Given six weeks between races, Wit returned to tackle a new track at Saratoga and a field full of winners in his stakes debut. Looking anything but like an inexperienced young horse making only his second career start, he once again impressed.

Drawn on the rail in the 11-horse field, Wit once again did not have the quickest of breaks, although better than in his debut. He quickly moved into mid-pack but stayed down on the rail as a long-shot leader opened up on the field through a fast opening quarter mile on a main track labeled as good. Splitting horses on the turn, he went to the attack on the outside and quickly took over the race under rider Irad Ortiz Jr.


The Sanford runner-up Headline Report turned in a good performance to separate himself from the rest of the field, but once again, this race was all about Wit. On the wire, he was eight lengths clear, far superior to his graded-stakes competition.

There have been many fast juveniles over the years to have outrun their competition with disdainful ease to begin their careers, but Wit just seems a little different.

Rallying to win his first two races in a romp, he gives every indication that he can carry his success over to longer distances. He has been a push-button winner, overcoming poor starts and dirt in his face and deftly coming off the rail to make everything look very easy so far.

When the Hopeful Stakes runs next Monday, it will be more than 7 weeks from the Sanford win, but Wit has kept busy. He has had five workouts at Saratoga since, the most recent being a four-furlong breeze on Sunday. With jockey Ortiz up, he went four furlongs in 49.22 seconds over a main track rated fast.

The seven-furlong Hopeful, a race his sire won five years ago, will be the next step for Wit. It is a Grade 1, but look for the unbeaten son of Practical Joke to be heavily favored again. You never know for sure until they do it, but so far, Wit looks to have all the potential in the world to be more than a precocious wonder. We could be looking at something special.

Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to HRN, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing webcast HorseCenter, and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves on the Board of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars and is a Vox Populi committee member. He is a voter for racing's Hall of Fame, as well as a weekly NTRA poll voter. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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