Magic Cross Takes $150K P. G. Johnson in Frontrunning Fashion

August 30, 2023

Magic Cross well clear in the P. G. Johnson to become a stakes winner (NYRA/Coglianese)

By Keith McCalmont – NYRA Press Office

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— James S. Karp’s Magic Cross outdueled Takemetothebeach en route to a prominent score in Wednesday’s off-the-turf $150,000 P. G. Johnson, contested at one mile out of the Wilson Chute for juvenile fillies, at Saratoga Race Course.

The complexion of the race changed when Miz Sense, the even-money favorite at the time, unseated jockey Jose Ortiz at the gate and ran loose before being collared by the outrider and subsequently scratched. Both Ortiz and Miz Sense walked off under their own power.

Bill Mott-trained Magic Cross, who was slated to make her turf debut, inherited the favorite role and exited the inside post at odds of 3-5 under jockey Junior Alvarado, who will be honored with the Mike Venezia Award in a special ceremony to be held Saturday here.

Villi Olento was hustled from the gate by Manny Franco, but Magic Cross utilized her natural speed to mark the opening quarter-mile in 24.16 seconds over the fast main track with Takemetothebeach in third and Dancing Spirit settled last-of-4.

Magic Cross maintained her lead through a half-mile in 47.39 as Rosario Montanez urged Takemetothebeach into second position with Villi Olento retreating. Magic Cross and Takemetothebeach raced in tandem through the final turn as Dancing Spirit tried and failed to get involved from third position.

Magic Cross drifted wide off the turn and quickly put away Takemetothebeach, powering to the wire a 4 1/2-length winner in a final time of 1:40.15. Takemetothebeach held second by 4 3/4 lengths over Dancing Spirit with Villi Olento rounding out the order of finish.

The Mott-trained Gala Brand, who will take on the boys in Thursday’s Grade 3 With Anticipation, was scratched, along with Madame Mischief, Cynane, Brocknardini, She Feels Pretty and Hard to Justify.

Magic Cross, a $112,500 purchase at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, graduated impressively on debut when drawing off to a 7 1/4-length score in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight on July 8 at Belmont Park. She followed with a distant fourth-place finish in the 6 1/2-furlong Grade 3 Adirondack on August 6 here.

“We were going to run this filly one way or another,” Mott said. “We scratched one and ran one and it turned out well.

“It was a good trip,” added Mott. “She had a horse [Takemetothebeach] dogging her a little bit down the backside, but she was able to put that one away. I would probably still give this one an opportunity on the grass at some point. We thought [she would appreciate more ground]. Jose Lezcano rode her last time and he thought a little bit of a stretch-out would help her.”

To the winner’s circle for Magic Cross and proud connections (Susie Raisher)

Alvarado said he tried to ride for speed on a card that featured five previous gate-to-wire winners.

“The track has been carrying speed today, so I was breaking and I knew she had speed and she’s been on the muscle lately,” Alvarado said. “I just broke out of there well and hustled her out of there. After that, I just tried to get her to relax so she can finish and she really showed up today.”

Takemetothebeach, trained and co-owned by Matthew Kintz, graduated in July traveling five furlongs over the Presque Isle Downs synthetic with a two-length score over returning rival Dancing Spirit, who exited that event to win a turf maiden route on August 13 here.

Montanez said he was pleased with the effort from Takemetothebeach.

“She stood in the gate perfectly and jumped out of there well. I like how she relaxed. We laid right off of it and she jumped on the bit,” Montanez said. “When we got to the backside, she did phenomenal. At the five-sixteenths pole, it was a dogfight. From there on, we dug in with the one [Magic Cross], and I was very pleased. Only thing is I wish we had another race in between this race and her last one. She got a little tired at the eighth-pole, but she dug in for second. I couldn’t ask for anything else. She handled the track phenomenally.”

Mott said Magic Cross could again target turf in the Grade 2, $200,000 Miss Grillo on October 1 at Belmont at the Big A, which offers a “Win and You’re” berth to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf on November 3 at Santa Anita.

“I would pursue a turf start with her. I think she’s worthy and I’m not sure what surface she’d be better on,” Mott said. “I need to try the turf to see if she moves forward on that. It could [be the Miss Grillo]. That’s a possibility. There’s only several stakes around on the turf and that would be one of them – and then the race at Keeneland [Grade 2 Jessamine on October 6].”

Magic Cross, by Good Magic, is out of the Tiznow mare Be Jeweled, who is a half-sister to both the turf stakes-winner Mohs and multiple stakes-placed main track runner Grandaria. Bred in Kentucky by Phil Hatfield and Christine Hatfield, Magic Cross banked $82,500 in victory while improving her record to 3-2-0-0. She returned $3.30 for a $2 win bet.

Live racing resumes Thursday at Saratoga with a 10-race card featuring the Grade 3 With Anticipation in Race 7. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

@JakeBlues23231 @jonathanstettin @PastTheWire hat trick, unbelievable!

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