P. G. Johnson Stakes Preview: Crystalle Headlines Group

From the NYRA Media Team:

Crystalle, trained by John Kimmel for owners Tobey Morton and Chuck Hovitz, will look to break through in style in Thursday’s $100,000 P.G. Johnson at Saratoga Race Course.

The dark bay daughter of Palace Malice enters the 1 1/16-mile turf event from a winning maiden voyage in which she was disqualified and placed third after drifting in down the lane.

A $220,000 purchase at the March OBS, the dark bay filly showed promise in morning training on the turf said Kimmel.

“I always liked her physical presence when I saw her. I was not looking for a Palace Malice, but she just caught my eye. Right now, it looks like a good purchase,” said Kimmel. “I had been working her on the dirt and she was working well enough. The last few times, I’d worked her with a colt I think is extremely talented named Famished. I knew she really wasn’t that quick and was hesitant about sprinting her on the dirt. So, I took her out on the turf course and let her get a little breeze, and she handled it pretty well.”

With the good training turf session intact, Kimmel entered Crystalle in a 1 1/16-mile maiden turf race on August 4 and the filly responded by rushing from last of nine, under Chris Landeros, to a 2 ¼-length score before being taken down for interference.

“She broke and fell back like I thought she might and when the real running in the race came, he tapped her a few times and she took off and ran her last quarter in 22 and change,” he said. “She blew by the field and was unfortunate she came in a little bit when he hit her right-handed. Even though she never made contact with anyone, she was taken down.”

Crystalle earned a 70 Beyer Speed Figure in her maiden voyage and showed enough talent that Kimmel said he is considering the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf as a target.

“She’s been well since that performance and I’m treating her like she’s a winner,” said Kimmel. “We think she has the ability to move forward and we’ll see whether or not she’s good enough to go on that trail towards the Breeders’ Cup turf race for 2-year-olds.”

Had she won her maiden effort, Kimmel said he would have entered Crystalle in the Grade 1 Natalma at Woodbine, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event in November at Santa Anita Park.

“I had entertained thoughts of running her in the Grade 1 race at Woodbine as a primary target if she had won,” said Kimmel. “Since she’s technically still a maiden, I was worried she might not get into the race.”

Joel Rosario will have the call aboard Crystalle from post 6.

To win the P.G. Johnson, Crystalle will have to topple a talented field of seven others led by the Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Sweet Melania and Apurate.

Robert and Lawana Low’s Sweet Melania, a chestnut daughter of American Pharoah, was purchased for $600,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Bred in Kentucky by St. Elias Stables, Sweet Melania graduated at third asking when switched to turf and stretched out to two turns for the first time.

She exits a key maiden turf race on July 14 which she won by 1 ¼-lengths over next-out winners Morning Gold and Lucky Jingle.

A One A Racing’s Apurate, a dark bay daughter of Summer Front, is still a maiden but earned a 70 Beyer last out when second to Morning Gold in a 1 1/16-mile turf maiden in her second start.

Jose Ortiz will pilot Sweet Melania from post 8, while Hall of Famer John Velazquez has the call on Apurate from post 4.

Funky Monkey Stable’s English Breeze, a bay daughter of English Channel bred in New York by Richard Greeley, earned a 62 Beyer in her stylish debut when 4 ¾-lengths the best in a restricted 1 1/16-mile turf maiden. Sent to post at odds of 9-1, the David Donk trainee settled in fifth before taking command at the head of the lane and edging clear.

Manny Franco retains the mount from post 7.

Rounding out the field are Lucky Jingle [Rajiv Maragh, post 1] Sunset Promise [Luis Saez, post 2], Ginseng [Javier Castellano, post 3], and Lively Kitten [Abner Adorno, post 5].

The P.G. Johnson is slated as Race 9 on Thursday’s 10-race card. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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