Trainer Chad Brown and jockey Javier Castellano are unbeatable in the P.G. Johnson Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.
They teamed up to win it for the third year in a row on Wednesday, this time with Partisan Politics, who overcame a rough first turn and a wide trip to get past Sunday Sonnet and win the turf stakes for juvenile fillies by 23⁄4 lengths.
“I thought today we would have had to save a little more ground to win, but she didn’t need it,” Brown said. “She got a wide trip and still won.”
Brown, from Mechanicville, and Castellano won this race with Granny Mc’s Kitten last year and Watsdachances in 2012.
Breaking from the No. 3 post, Castellano intended to get Partisan Politics to the rail, but was intercepted by Ancient Goddess and jockey Joel Rosario with a bit of a shove for that spot as they got into the turn.
Partisan Politics also made contact with Magnificent Margo and Rainha Da Bateria and had to settle for a path five-wide before angling in for better ground-saving position on the backstretch.
The daughter of More Than Ready was still three-wide turning for home and got the lead at the eighth pole before finishing well under a hand ride.
“It got rough a little bit in the beginning of the race,” Castellano said.
“We spoke about it in the paddock, and we really wanted the spot the No. 1 [Ancient Goddess] was in going into the first turn,” Brown said. “Handicapping the race, I thought there were two speed horses, and I knew that European horses generally don’t break well first time out, so I said, ‘See if you can break and get right in the pocket.’ When the No. 1 got my spot and we were four-wide, I was not happy.”
It didn’t matter.
Sunday Sonnet led through a quarter-mile in 24.60 and a half in 49.32, with 36-1 Slava tracking in second and Ancient Goddess in third.
Partisan Politics, who debuted with a close third-place finish to Rainha Da Bateria in a turf sprint, got clear of the lead pack and rolled home.
“I’m really proud of this horse, for her to go wide the whole way and still power home and win convincingly,” Brown said. “I wasn’t positive she wanted to go a mile and a sixteenth quite yet. That’s why I debuted her sprinting.”
“I think the first race was too short for her,” Castellano said. “Now he put her in a mile and a sixteenth, and she was very comfortable today.”
Saturday is Woodward Day and marks the return of two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan to the races, in the Bernard Baruch.
Whitney winner Moreno is the 2-1 morning-line favorite in the Grade I Woodward Stakes, which has a scheduled post time of 6:46 p.m. to accommodate a live broadcast on NBCSN from 6-7.
Itsmyluckyday, the 2013 Preakness runner-up who was second in the Whitney, is the 5-2 second choice.
Palace Malice, a dull sixth in the Whitney as the 3-5 favorite, will skip the Woodward and target the Jockey Club Gold Cup. His four-furlong breeze in 48.67 on Sunday wasn’t enough to convince trainer Todd Pletcher to run him on Saturday.
“It wasn’t that sparkling breeze that we were looking for leading into the Woodward,” he said.
Wise Dan hasn’t raced since May 3, when he won the Grade I Turf Classic at Churchill Downs, because of emergency colic surgery over three months ago.
He’s 3-5 in the Bernard Baruch, followed by 4-5 Lea, who won the Donn Handicap and will by trying the turf for the first time since he was third to Wise Dan in last year’s Fourstardave.
“I think he’s back to himself again,” trainer Charlie LoPresti said of Wise Dan. “We were probably two works short of the Fourstardave. Once we got him up here, I realized I was trying to play catch-up to make that race, and this makes more sense. I can’t say that any race at Saratoga is easy, but this is an easier spot, I think, for him to come back in.”
WITH ANTICIPATION TODAY
The field for today’s Grade II With Anticipation for 2-year-olds on the turf includes four horses who are coming off career debut victories, including two from the barn of Graham Motion, Strong Coffee and Hot Tin Roof.
Strong Coffee won at Saratoga at the With Anticipation distance of a mile and a sixteenth on Aug. 2, beating Face the Music by three lengths.
Hot Tin Roof broke his maiden on the Polytrack going six furlongs at Presque Isle Downs on July 30.
“You don’t have a lot of options,” Motion said of the class jump. “It seemed fairly logical to stay here and point for this race. The timing was good, and there was no real reason not to.”
Strong Coffee is the 3-1 second choice on the morning line off his nice win here.
The 5-2 favorite is Designed for War, trained by Pletcher, is another first-time winner in the field, by a length and three-quarters at a mile and a sixteenth on the turf at Saratoga.
“Certainly, he surprised me that he could win like that first time out,” Motion said of Strong Coffee. “I thought he would run well. I didn’t necessarily think he had to win, and certainly didn’t expect him to win like that.”
Motion said he had intended to race Strong Coffee on the dirt, but after a poor workout on the main track, he breezed him on the grass at the Oklahoma training track, and “he worked like a different horse.”
Designed for War has also trained on dirt and turf.
“We felt like, typical of some of the War Fronts that we’ve had, when we put him on the grass he showed some improvement,” Pletcher said.