Becky’s Joker To Enter G1 Acorn

May 30, 2024

Becky’s Joker scores on debut in the Schuylerville (G3) July 13 at Saratoga (NYRA/Coglianese)

Nutella Fella to G1 Woody Stephens

NYRA Press Office

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— Lee Pokoik’s Becky’s Joker, who won the Grade 3 Schuylerville on debut last July at Saratoga Race Course, is under consideration for Belmont Stakes Racing Festival action in the six-furlong Listed $150,000 Jersey Girl on June 6 or the nine-furlong Grade 1, $500,000 DK Horse Acorn on June 7, at Saratoga Race Course.

Trained by Gary Contessa, the sophomore daughter of Practical Joke exited the six-furlong Schuylerville to run off-the-board in the 6 1/2-furlong Grade 3 Adirondack on August 6 at the Spa and she has not raced since.

Contessa said he will enter Becky’s Joker, who has worked extensively since the end of March, including a six-furlong drill in 1:14.65 on Tuesday over Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track, in both the Acorn and Jersey Girl.

“I’m going to enter her in both races. I’m going to look at the complexion of both races, and see where I think she is a better fit,” said Contessa. “Obviously, coming off such a layoff, the Jersey Girl makes sense, but when she trains, she seems like she’d run all day. She is a big filly who never runs out of gas, one mile and an eighth doesn’t seem out of the question, but it does remain the unknown.

“She’s had two sprints, that’s it. We are going to put her in and hopefully make the right decision,” Contessa added.

Contessa said that the decision between the sprint and route will come down to potential pace scenarios.

“I believe in the Acorn, she would be on the lead. I don’t believe anybody is going to beat a horse like her to the lead other than herself, if she breaks bad or something,” said Contessa. “The Jersey Girl, she’d probably be last and make one run.”

Out of the Elusive Quality mare Becky’s Best, Becky’s Joker holds a lifetime record of 2-1-0-0 with $98,250 in earnings.

Nutella Fella upsets the Hopeful (G1) Sep. 4 at Saratoga (Janet Napolitano)

Bell Gable Stable’s Nutella Fella, a 2-for-2 sophomore son of Runhappy and last-out 54-1 winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful in September at the Spa, will return from his near nine-month layoff in the Grade 1, $500,000 Woody Stephens presented by Mohegan Sun, a seven-furlong sprint for sophomores on June 8 Belmont Stakes Day.

The Runhappy bay has worked weekly at Saratoga since April, including a six-furlong breeze in 1:14.65 on Tuesday over Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track.

“He’s definitely running in the Woody Stephens. He’s been phenomenal, he’s ready to run. I’ve gotten the works into him that I needed and he’s shown up for every work,” Contessa said. “He’s going to have to come back and win a Grade 1 off the layoff, he needs to be fit. I’m old-school, I work horses the distance they have to run. I’ve actually worked him seven-eighths.”

In the last-out Grade 1 Hopeful score, Nutella Fella was 6 1/4 lengths back in last-of-10 after breaking slow, before surging late under Junior Alvarado to earn a 1 1/2-length score over next-out Grade 1 Champagne-winner Timberlake. He entered off a debut score in July at Delaware Park after being fractious at the gate when in the barn of Richard Sillaman.

Contessa said that even with the time off, Nutella Fella is still experiencing a bit of gate troubles.

“That’s his Achilles heel, I think it is always going to be a problem,” said Contessa. “But this gate crew knows him, and are very smart with him and know how to handle him. We have an established game plan for how to handle him in the gate.”

Alvarado, who has been aboard for Nutella Fella’s last two works, will have the call in the Woody Stephens.

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