When The Elkstone Group homebred Joe captured the Maryland Juvenile Dec. 18 at Laurel Park, it provided founder Stuart Grant with an ideal Christmas gift to bestow the colt’s namesake, a longtime family friend who also calls Delaware home.
“I don’t know where it’s displayed, but I know the President has a win photo from [Joe’s] stakes win,” Grant said. “The Biden family and us have been close for 30 years. I’m hoping it’s in the White House, but I don’t know for sure.”
Joe, based at Laurel with trainer Mike Trombetta, is entered to make his sophomore debut in Sunday’s fourth race, an optional claiming allowance for 3-year-olds and up going around two turns at about 1 1/16 miles. Regular rider Victor Carrasco gets the call from the rail in a field of six.
“He’s doing great. We are bringing him along slowly. We’ll look for the best spot for him,” Grant said. “Especially in a six-horse field, I don’t really care where he is. If it was 12 horses, I might not want the inside or the outside, but he’s a good horse.”
Joe is also nominated to the first stakes in Maryland for 3-year-olds, the $100,000 Spectacular Bid, sprinting seven furlongs. Originally scheduled for Jan. 22, it is one of six stakes worth $550,000 in purses that was pushed back to Saturday, Jan. 29 at Laurel.
“With him being a Maryland-bred, there’s not much difference in the purse money to us than the stakes. Right now we may wind up being in the allowance and we’ll just see what happens,” Grant said. “Assuming the track is good and everything’s in good shape, I don’t know why we wouldn’t run him there. There are plenty of stakes. He’s a young horse, and we want to build his confidence. We think he can do really good things. We’re taking it easy with him.”
By Declaration of War out of the Arch mare Battle Bridge, Joe is a half-brother to Grade 3-placed turf router Irony of Reality who was unveiled in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight turf sprint Oct. 24 at Laurel, where he got bumped at the break and wound up fifth in a field of nine. Moved to the dirt and stretched out to a mile for his next start, Joe sat just off the lead before taking over after six furlongs and drawing clear to a 3 ¼-length triumph Nov. 21.
“We liked him. Donna Freyer down at the Camden Training Center breaks them for me and she always liked him,” Grant said. “He didn’t get up to Mike that quickly. It took him a little bit longer to develop. We don’t push horses unnecessarily, and when Mike got him he was really happy with him. He’s the one who said [he’d] like try him first on turf while we still have turf. We ran on that once and we brought him back to the dirt. Mike’s done a good job.”
Next up was the seven-furlong Maryland Juvenile, where Joe found himself trailing all but two of 12 horses in the early going before uncorking a steady rally on the far outside to gain the lead in mid-stretch and win by 1 ½ lengths in his stakes debut.
“It’s tempting after a stakes win like that to say, ‘OK, go put him on the [Kentucky] Derby trail.’ I’m not sure that’s the best thing for this horse, so we’re going to continue to bring him along slowly,” he added. “We’re going to target the right spots. We’ll move from this month’s race to presumably a stakes race. If he wins the allowance, he won’t have a lot of choices. We’ll put him in some overnight stakes and see how he does with that kind of company. It’s a long summer with a nice 3-year-old. We’ll find some good places for him.”
Joe is actually the second horse Grant named for Biden. He also bred V P Joe, a son of Sky Mesa that won three of 21 starts between 2009 and 2012.
“This one, I tried to name Ridin With Biden but someone took it,” Grant said. “I said, ‘We’ll just go with what we call him,’ and lo and behold it was available.”