Venti Valentine captures the Johnstone Mile Handicap (Adam Coglianese)
By Keith McCalmont – NYRA Press Office
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— NY Final Furlong Racing Stable and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ multiple graded stakes-placed Venti Valentine rallied stoutly to overtake a game Timeless Journey and capture Wednesday’s $125,000 Johnstone Mile Handicap for New York-bred fillies and mares, at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Jorge Abreu, the 4-year-old Firing Line chestnut saved ground under Manny Franco before tipping out late in the final turn and launching an all-out bid to secure the half-length win. The victory marked the first Spa stakes win for NY Final Furlong Racing Stable, who co-bred Venti Valentine with Maspeth Stable.
“This is our first stakes win at Saratoga as a partnership. To do it with a horse that we bred and that we love so much is so rewarding,” said Dan Zanatta, co-managing partner of NY Final Furlong Racing Stable. “It’s [our] first win of the meet at Saratoga. It’s been a bit of a frustrating start for us, but it’s the first horse we actually started of the meet, so it started off well at least.
“She had been breezing really well over this track, so we came into this with a lot of confidence,” added Zanatta. “Her last three breezes are the best she’s had in her career, so we were pretty confident.”
Sunset Louise, who entered on a three-race win streak, led the field out of the Wilson Chute through splits of 24.33 seconds and 47.34 over the fast main track with Know It All Audrey pressing the pace from second position. Venti Valentine, who was last leaving the Wilson Chute, was hustled up the rail to fourth position as Know It All Audrey took over into the final turn with the Dylan Davis-piloted Timeless Journey looming large with an outside run.
Franco remained patient aboard Venti Valentine, angling out around a retreating Sunset Louise at the top of the lane and using the length of the stretch run to surge past the stubborn Know It All Audrey and collar Timeless Journey with a sixteenth to run and stop the clock in a final time of 1:38.98. Timeless Journey completed the exacta a half-length ahead of Betsy Blue with Know It All Audrey and Sunset Louise rounding out the order of finish. Bustin Bay and Mia Bea Star were scratched.
Franco said he was concerned after a sluggish start from the inside post.
“She broke a step slow. I was kind of surprised. But after that, very good trip,” Franco said. “I just sat behind the two horses in front and when the six horse [Timeless Journey] passed by the five-sixteenths, I just went around him and got in the clear.”
Franco said he felt confident once he extricated Venti Valentine from the rail.
“Every time she runs, we don’t have much pace in the race and she gets kind of strong on me,” Franco said. “But today, I had everything my way. As soon as I got into the clear, she just started running again.
“I didn’t quit because I felt I had more under me,” added Franco, regarding the furious finish. “She was running with the horses, every time they came close to her, she gave me a little bit more. So I kept riding her and she got it done.”
Abreu and Parkland Thoroughbreds teamed up in Race 6 with impressive maiden winner Jody’s Pride, who captured the 5 1/2-furlong off-the-turf sprint for juvenile fillies by 10 1/2-lengths
“[Venti Valentine] is a special horse for me. Having two wins in a day, it’s very special to me,” Abreu said.
The ultra-consistent Venti Valentine secured her fourth career stakes win, including an open-company score in the last year’s Busher Invitational at Aqueduct to go along with state-bred success in the Bay Ridge last year at the Big A and the 2021 Maid of the Mist at Belmont Park.
Abreu said Venti Valentine will wait until racing returns to the Big A for her next appearance, which could include a start on Empire Showcase Day on October 29.
“We’ll see how she comes out. We’ll probably save her for Aqueduct, keep her against state-breds and go from there,” Abreu said.
The Ray Handal-trained Timeless Journey was making her first start since a distant third-place finish in the state-bred Critical Eye on May 29 at Belmont. Davis said he was proud of the effort from his mare.
“I really thought we were home,” Davis said. “She put on a game effort out there and she came back healthy. Her whole career she’s been performing well and she’s on the top of her game. I’m real excited for all the races to come for her.”
Venti Valentine banked $68,750 in victory while improving her record to 13-5-2-2. She returned $12.40 for a $2 win bet.
Live racing resumes Thursday at Saratoga with a 10-race card. First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.