SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— Michael J. Ryan’s Irish homebred Be Your Best surged up the rail to win 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 and piloted by Jose Ortiz, who won four races on the card, the Muhaarar bay entered from a stylish 3 1/4-length debut score traveling 1 1/16-miles on July 31 over firm Spa turf.
“Jose had me a little worried at the quarter-pole. He was kind of inside, but he believed in the filly,” De Paz said. “He’s been working her in the mornings and rode her first time, so he knew what he had underneath him. Her mind is so good, I worked her with another 2-year-old and she was always handling everything very well. Everything she does is very classy. She’s a classy filly.”
The Junior Alvarado-piloted Recognize took command from the outermost post 8 and set splits of 24.15 seconds and 49.67 over the good going with Damaso tracking in second and Be Your Best saving ground in third.
Idea Generation, who was forced wide through the opening turn under Flavien Prat, advanced with a wide rally into the final turn as three-quarters ticked by in 1:15.17. But a patient Ortiz cut the corner with Be Your Best and surged to the inside of Recognize to take command a furlong out en route to a 3 3/4-length score in a final time of 1:45.67.
Whichwaze, with Dylan Davis up, rallied from last at odds of 19-1 to complete the exacta by a half-length over Recognize with Idea Generation, Pachuca, Damaso, Lady Jasmine and Indian Spideroo rounding out the order of finish. Main-track-only entrant Leave No Trace was scratched.
“I knew we were going slow going into the first turn, but I feel like the grass – the inner especially – is no good for speed. So, I decided to make a move and take that position inside,” said Ortiz, who won this event last year with Miss Interpret. “The filly was so easy to ride. She did whatever I asked her to do. She relaxed well and had a beautiful turn of foot turning for home. The rail opened up and she gave it to me. I feel like she didn’t give me 100 percent – she was playing with her ears passing the wire. She’s happy and Horacio has done an amazing job with her.”
It was the second Spa stakes score for De Paz, who won the 2017 Smart N Fancy with Ginger N Rye. He said the team may now consider charting a path to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf in November at Keeneland.
“Definitely, but we’ll see how she comes out,” De Paz said. “I think she’s deserving of that spot. We’ll look at [another start]. She’s a pretty fit filly but [we’ll] kind of get with Mike Ryan on that and make the best decision.”
Ortiz, who also won races Thursday aboard Numero Seis [Race 3], Invaluable [Race 8], and Be The Boss [Race 11], said he was pleased for the connections of the Irish homebred.
“I’m just happy for Mike Ryan and his wife,” Ortiz said. “They do an amazing job and go overseas. They bred this horse and it’s a very well deserved win for them. Horacio is my man and I’m happy for him. He’s helped me a lot.
“She always seemed very classy,” added Ortiz, “I got on her very early at Belmont, I would say maybe two months before Saratoga and she was great. I took her to the gate and she was very classy. She worked very good on the dirt, so I thought she was an American horse. Horacio told me the second time I worked her, ‘You know she’s a European and is supposed to be better on the grass.’ So I told Horacio, ‘If she improves, on the grass, she’ll be special.’”
Whichwaze, by Cross Traffic, entered from a game neck score in a six-furlong maiden special weight on August 13 over the Tapeta at Woodbine Racetrack for Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse. She was backed out of the gate briefly before the start of the P.G. Johnson after Lady Jasmine acted up, unseating Hall of Famer John Velazquez.
“She didn’t break the best and ended up being last, but she made a huge run for us and I really like what she did for me,” Davis said. “The one horse was acting up real bad in the gate. Johnny ended up diving into my stall and pushing me off my filly and I was fighting for myself really. I saw they had Johnny and then I was worried about myself. But she ended up getting out of there OK, and she ran a great race. I’m just happy that myself and Johnny are okay.”
Bred by St. Croix Bloodstock, Be Your Best banked $82,500 in victory while remaining perfect through two starts. She returned $4.70 for a $2 win bet.
Live racing resumes Friday at Saratoga with a 10-race card featuring the Grade 2, $250,000 Prioress in Race 9. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
Saratoga Live will present daily coverage and analysis of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
NYRA Bets is the official wagering platform of Saratoga Race Course, and the best way to bet every race of the summer meet. Available to horse players nationwide, the NYRA Bets app is available for download today on iOS and Android at www.NYRABets.com.
By Keith McCalmont – NYRA Press Office
Photo: Be Your Best wins the P.G. Johnson (Susie Raisher)