SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Tobey Morton and Chuck Hovitz’s Crystalle, whose maiden-breaking debut effort was taken away via disqualification, ran much cleaner on Thursday to nail Sweet Melania at the wire and win the $100,000 P. G. Johnson Stakes at Saratoga.
After breaking from post 6 with her head turned as the 8/5 favorite, Crystalle and jockey Joel Rosario trailed the field heading into the clubhouse turn. Apurate rushed up to take the front and, with Ginseng to her inside initially, set opening fractions of :23.29, :47.19, and 1:11.44.
Midway through the far turn, a now-outside-running Ginseng took first crack at the pacesetter, while Crystalle remained unhurried at the rear but tipped out nearing the top of the stretch. Ginseng’s bid failed but Sweet Melania overtook Apurate running three-wide and looked like a winner. At the 1/16 pole, however, Crystalle kicked into high gear and shot alongside Sweet Melania’s outside.
Bursting ahead in the shadow of the wire, Crystalle crossed a neck ahead of Sweet Melanie to win. The John Kimmel trainee completed the 1 1/16-mile event over the firm turf course in a final time of 1:41.36.
“She came with a nice run in the end,” Rosario said. “She ran a big race on the turf last time and she keeps proving herself. She was more professional today. She knows what she’s doing up there. It was a pretty strong run. It looks like she has a bright future, so we’ll see what happens.”
English Breeze closed well but lacked the same kick as the winner and could only come within a 1/2-length of Sweet Melania, finishing third. Ginseng and Apurate faded to fourth and fifth, respectively, while behind them came Lively Kitten and Lucky Jingle to complete the order of finish. Sunset Promise was scratched.
Crystalle’s $55,000 share of the purse improved her career earnings mark to $65,800. Kimmel learned from trial and error whether the Palace Malice 2-year-old filly would like the grass.
“She had been getting out-footed with some of the sharp 2-year-old colts, and I figured if I sprinted her on the dirt, she was going to get a facial and a bad experience,” Kimmel said. “We took her one day, breezed her on the turf, and she did real well. Then we ran her in that race, not really knowing what to expect. She didn’t have much early speed, but she did have a good late kick. That’s a good thing to have.”
Morton purchased her this past April for $220,000, so the hope is that this was just the beginning.
“We’re thinking about Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile Fillies Turf [G1]),” Kimmel said. “Now, we’ll probably point to the Miss Grillo (Stakes [G2] on September 29 at Belmont Park) and take it from there.”
Crystalle returned $5.30 to win, $3 to place, and $2.60 to show. Sweet Melania brought back $3.70 to place and $2.90 to show, while English Breeze paid $3 to show.