The 2-year-olds take center stage again Thursday in the P. G. Johnson Stakes, run at 1 1/16 miles on the inner turf. The majority of the field has only entered sprints prior to this race, and the added length will be a question mark that looms over them. However, there is reason to believe that there are contenders among the sprinters.
Mystic Eyes (4-1) looked great in her debut at Saratoga on Aug. 5, leading at each call and maintaining her 4 1/2-length lead through the stretch run. That race was run over 5 1/2 furlongs, so this race will be 35% longer, but her pedigree suggests that she will be OK with the added distance. Her jockey, John Velazquez, has outperformed his 2021 win percentage when aboard Thoroughbreds of Mystic Eyes’ run type, winning 22% of races with early leaders.
Expand the Map (8-5) fell short in her debut, but ran well and was heavily bet by the Saratoga fans, finishing second. However, she did so at 1 1/16th miles, making her one of only two starters with route experience. A second look at the Saratoga turf with jockey Irad Ortiz could very well yield improved results. A stalker in her first race, she and Mystic Eyes may not run head-to-head until the stretch.
Silvery Rill (5-2) is the other entrant with a route race under her belt. She, like Expand the Map, ran second in her Saratoga debut at this distance as the betting favorite. When comparing those similarities, though, Silvery Rill was not bet down quite as much, and her speed rating came in just a bit lower. She also does not have a good workout leading into this race, or pedigree ratings for this race type that can match those of Expand the Map. These are nit picks to separate the two, and they could easily be swapped for second and third selection.
Take the Backroads (8-1) is another early leader who was able to finally put it all together in her most recent race with jockey Tyler Gaffalione once she was moved to the turf. Like Mystic Eyes, she is stretching out by adding three more furlongs over her last race. Their run styles, combined with their lack of experience at this distance, may give them the potential to do too much too soon when they still have a lot of race left, but that concern feels a little too circumstantial to discredit them before we see them try it.
Esotica (8-5) will start the third race as the best bet on the card. She is coming off a dominant, clear win at six furlongs in her first race off a layoff, and her workouts suggest she is ready to continue at her new pace. Even a lesser effort from her last race should be enough to secure a victory here.
American Tattoo (8-1) has turned a corner this summer, with competitive efforts far above his public backing in his last two races. He enters the eighth race with the chance to be overlooked again, but with the speed to put him right along entrants with half his morning line payout. The eighth sports a large, but fairly even field, and American Tattoo has the momentum to potentially net his first win of the year.
4-Coworth Park, 6-Blue Atlas, 1-Bee Bit, 5-Claddagh’s Run, (Yes I’m Evil becomes the top pick if the race is moved to the main track).
1-Java Buzz, 3-Dream Fly, 2-Slipstream, 9-Liza’s Ready (4-Munny Bolt becomes the top pick if the race is moved to the main track.)
2-Esotica, 7-East Wing, 5-Cause To Dream, 6-Danny Cuts Deep.
4-Aloha West, 2-American Power, 3-Sonneman, 5-Three Technique.
3-Mubtadaa, Brown Entry (1-Deregulation and 1A Deferred Taxes), 6-Complicate, 7-My Boy Colton.
11-Gimmedamoney, 6-Ava K’s Boy, 10-Illuminato, 8-Father Walsh.
5-Motivated Seller, 9-Time Limit, 7-Gotta Go Mo, 8-Summer Brew.
3-American Tattoo, 5-Musical America, 1-Journeyman, 4-Candy Tycoon.
9-Mystic Eyes, 3-Expand the Map, 5-Silvery Rill, 6-Take the Backroads.
6-Babagram, 10-I’m Blaming You, 5-Boom Boom Kaboom, 3-Hot Doctor (13-Majestic Tiger becomes the top pick if the race is moved to the main track).
Jill’s a Hot Mess (seventh), Vindictive (eighth).
Record for meet: 105 for 358.
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