’22 Tesio Champ, Joe, Nearing 4YO Debut

April 15, 2023

Joe battles Mr Jefferson for the victory in the 2022 Federico Tesio. (Jerry Dzierwinski/MJC)

Named for President Biden, Joe has been Unraced Since Win in Murphy on Turf Last May

David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club

LAUREL, Md.— The Elkstone Group’s Joe, a two-time state champion and winner of three stakes from seven starts including a determined triumph in last year’s $125,000 Federico Tesio, continues to train forwardly for his 4-year-old debut.

Joe returned to the work tab in mid-March at Laurel Park for trainer Michael Trombetta and had his first five-furlong breeze April 6, going in 1:03.20 over the main track. The connections, including Elkstone’s Stuart Grant, timed his comeback with the return of turf season.

Laurel ran its first grass race of the season Thursday and has three $100,000 grass stakes on the schedule for April 22 – the Clark for 3-year-olds and up and Dahlia for fillies and mares 3 and older, both going one mile, and 5 ½-furlong King T. Leatherbury.

“Joe is on his way back,” Grant said. “I don’t know that he’ll be in the Clark. I don’t know if he’ll be ready by then. He probably won’t, but he’ll be in the next one.

“We’ve been saving him for the turf,” he added. “He came back from an injury, but we thought he was better on turf so rather than rush him back we gave him a bunch of time so that he can have a nice 4-year-old campaign this year on the turf.”

Joe was recently named Maryland’s champion 3-year-old male of 2022 after winning three of four starts including the $100,000 James W. Murphy on turf on the undercard of the 147th Preakness Stakes (G1) at historic Pimlico Race Course. He was also Maryland’s champion 2-year-old male of 2021 when he went two-for-three capped by a victory in the Maryland Juvenile.

“A lot of horses that make that adjustment from 3 to 4 are better horses at 4, especially if you give them some time. So, I’m hoping that we might even have a better horse as a 4-year-old than we did as a 3-year-old, and, boy, he was a lot of fun as a 3-year-old,” Grant said. “We’re happy with him. He seems to be doing well. He’s a happy guy, and hopefully he will race as determinedly as he did as a 3-year-old.”

Joe’s resolve was never more on display than in last year’s Tesio. The homebred Declaration of War colt pressed a solid pace for a half-mile, straightened for home with a 2 ½-length lead, momentarily lost it to Mr Jefferson in mid-stretch but fought back to edge his stablemate by a head.

For the eighth straight year, the 1 1/8-mile Tesio serves as a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated horses to the Preakness. Joe was not a Triple Crown nominee and Grant and Trombetta mulled whether to take a shot at the Middle Jewel before opting for the Murphy on grass, a surface where Joe ran fifth in his career debut in October 2021 at Laurel.

“We try to do right by the horse. We want to put him someplace where we think he can be competitive. We’ve certainly taken our shots over the years and given a horse an opportunity that might be over his head, but we thought we knew Joe pretty well and we just felt that he would do his best running on turf,” Grant said. “Those last two wins, the way he sort of dug in and ground it out, it was good.

“With a horse like that, you want him in a place where he will have a nice, determined fight but you don’t want to bury him because that does weird things to horses,” he added. “We try hard to put them in the right spot. A lot of work goes into that. I spend a lot of time, the trainers obviously spend a lot of time, Brad Weisbord who helps me spends a lot of time. Training a horse is really important but placing them well can be as important.”

Joe owns five wins and one second with purse earnings of $288,324 from seven starts, breaking his maiden by 3 ½ lengths second time out in his first try on dirt and opening his sophomore season with a 2 ½-length triumph last January in his two-turn debut. Victor Carrasco, aboard for each of his races, returned March 19 from a 4 ½-month absence due to a dislocated left thumb.

“Joe is one that you don’t have to worry about, like if it rains, will it come off [the grass] or stay on. That’s big,” Grant said. “But he’s also a horse with heart. I’ve been fortunate to have a few of them over the years, but it’s a unique athlete that can have both talent and heart and he’s got that. I hope he has the longevity of his namesake.”

Grant named Joe for 80-year-old U.S. President Joe Biden, who has been a family friend for years. Before becoming Vice President, Biden served 36 years as a Senator representing Delaware where Grant, an acclaimed attorney, entrepreneur, investor, sportsman and philanthropist, is based.

“I sort of feel like Joe is the same way. He grinds it out. He’s not a flashy guy but he gets in there and he works hard, he’s got good people around him and he gives you his best shot all the time,” Grant said. “I think that one has worked out for his namesake.

“There are a bunch of others that I’ve named after friends and things like that, and they’ll ask what’s happened to the horse and sometimes you have to say, ‘He’s still at the farm, I’m not sure he’s going to make it to the races,” he added. “There’s always a bad story to tell, but this was a good story. We’re waiting for him to come back and continue the story.”

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