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Aaron previews the 2022 P. G. Johnson Stakes at Saratoga, then gives his top picks and longshots. Be Your Best looks to build off her impressive debut over this course and distance for trainer Horacio De Paz. Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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The track press release:
Michael J. Ryan’s Irish homebred Be Your Best will make her stakes debut in Thursday’s $150,000 P.G. Johnson, a 1 1/16-mile inner turf test for juvenile fillies, at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Horacio De Paz, Be Your Best registered a field-best 70 Beyer Speed Figure in her 3 1/4-length debut maiden special weight score traveling 1 1/16-miles over firm Spa turf on July 31.
Patiently handled by returning rider Jose Ortiz, the Muhaarar bay settled in seventh through the opening quarter-mile before advancing outside rivals through the final turn. Be Your Best rallied five-wide down the lane, taking command in the final eighth of a mile to win in a final time of 1:43.97.
“She broke a step slow. She’s usually a better gate horse than that, but I think it was just one of those things that happen with first time starters,” De Paz said. “He tried to navigate a trip and stay out of her way and give her the best experience. Obviously, he had horse underneath him and let her run on and she definitely did.”
Be Your Best was sent to post at odds of 8-1, fifth choice in the field of 10, in which the Chad Brown-trained debutante Free Look, a $300,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, went to post as the 5-2 mutuel favorite.
“I was backing her to run well,” said De Paz. “She had been training well but obviously with turf racing here, and having Chad Brown horses in there and other connections, it can be a little tough. She was overlooked in her first race, for sure.”
Be Your Best has breezed back twice out of her maiden score, including a half-mile breeze Thursday in 49.09 over the Spa main track.
“She’s doing good. She’s been very consistent since her race,” De Paz said. “She’s a pretty filly. She’s average sized but she’s very efficient as far as the way that she moves. I have a few horses with Mike Ryan. He bred her and I just got lucky he decided to send her to me. She’s definitely a talented filly.”
De Paz said he is looking forward to seeing how the filly progresses in the afternoon.
“She’s a kind filly and gets over the ground really nice,” De Paz said. “If she were to be able to run where she can tuck in, get off the bit and relax, she has a quick turn of foot. As we run her more, we’ll get to know more about what her style will be like.”
Be Your Best will exit post 6 under Ortiz.
Klaravich Stables’ Idea Generation [post 5, Flavien Prat] will make her official career debut for four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown.
The dark bay daughter of Dubawi was part of a race declared a “no-contest” on July 24 at the Spa. Out of the Galileo mare Knocknagree, Idea Generation was purchased for $485,808 at the Tattersalls October Yearling Sale. Knocknagree is a half-sister to multiple group-stakes winning millionaire Rostropovich and Group 1-winner Zoffany.
Lady Jasmine, a New York-bred daughter of Cairo Prince, graduated with a prominent trip in her August 3 debut traveling 1 1/16-miles over firm Saratoga turf under returning Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez.
Trained and co-owned by David Donk with John Behrendt, Charles Marquis, Suzanne Haslup, Sean Carney, William Punk, Jr. and Philip DiLeo, Lady Jasmine was purchased for $45,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Fall Yearling Sale.
Lady Jasmine will exit post 1.
St. George Stable’s Kentucky homebred Pachuca [post 3, Luis Saez], by Ghostzapper, will make her turf debut for trainer Fausto Gutierrez. She won on debut in July sprinting six furlongs on the Gulfstream Park main track ahead of a rallying runner-up effort last out in the seven-furlong Debutante on August 14 at Ellis Park.
A half-sibling to turf stakes-placed Omixochitl, by More Than Ready, Pachuca is out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Goodbye Kid, who is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winning millionaire Tom’s Ready.
Perrine Time Thoroughbreds’ Damaso [post 7, Jose Lezcano] will make her turf debut for trainer Timothy Hamm out of a distant fifth in the Grade 3 Adirondack on August 7 at the Spa. The Outwork bay, purchased for $23,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, made her first two starts on synthetic, graduating on debut in June at Presque Isle Downs ahead of a third-place finish in the My Dear in July at Woodbine.
Bred in Kentucky by Turnley Farms LA, she is out of the Violence mare Ms Dupree, who was unplaced in two starts on turf.
Sequel Racing and Cypress Creek Equine’s New York-bred Recognize [post 8, Junior Alvarado], by Bolt d’Oro, graduated gate-to-wire in her turf debut traveling 1 1/16-miles last out on August 18 at the Spa.
Trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott, the $270,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase is out of the Majesticperfection mare Avendesora, who is a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Your Bluffing.
Rounding out the field is Whichwaze [post 2, Dylan Davis], a debut maiden winner on the Woodbine Tapeta for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse; and Indian Spideroo [post 4, Kendrick Carmouche], who will make her turf debut from a second-out graduation on August 10 traveling one-mile over the Presque Isle synthetic. Leave No Trace is entered for the main-track only.
The 18th running of the P.G. Johnson, slated as Race 10 on the 11-race card with a first post of 1:05 p.m. Eastern, honors the late Hall of Fame trainer who crafted a distinguished career that spanned six decades. Philip George Johnson was the leading trainer at Saratoga in 1983 and according to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, won at least one race each year at the Spa from 1962 to 2003. His biggest victory came in 2002 with Volponi, a horse he co-owned, who sprung a 43-1 upset in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
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