Big days for Bourbon Lane

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Fans at Saratoga Race Course here in upstate New York won’t be too out of line if they get the sudden urge for the barrel-aged distilled spirit made from corn and crafted in Kentucky better known as bourbon over the next two days.

It won’t be because they’ll see and hear the commercial for NYRA corporate partner Woodford Reserve on the television monitors throughout the track, although those are certainly visually appealing for fans of the Bluegrass State’s signature spirit. It will probably be because they’ll be hearing the word bourbon a lot, both in today’s P. G. Johnson Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on the grass and Thursday’s Grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes for 2-year-olds on the grass.

Bourbon Lane Stable, the operation run lifelong horsemen Mike McMahon and Jamie Hill, sends out entries in both races. And wouldn’t you know, both, like all the other horses owned by the racing partnership, have the word bourbon in their names.

La Reine Bourbon, a filly by Leroidesanimaux, is up first and should vie for favoritism with stablemate and maiden Granny Mc’s Kitten and Miss Frost in the 1 1/16-mile stakes named for the late Hall of Fame trainer. Tiger Bourbon is the 3-1 second choice behind General Jack for Thursday’s With Anticipation at the same distance.

Chad Brown sends out La Reine Bourbon, who was purchased by Bourbon Lane for $100,000 at the OBS April sale and sent straight to her trainer’s barn in Saratoga. She was impressive in her Aug. 4 debut, coming through a seam on the inside and against the rail to win by 2 ¼ lengths.

“We bought her from Justin Casse and we’ve got to give a lot of credit to him,” said McMahon, a Saratoga County native who makes his home in Versailles, Kentucky. “He really liked her, told us how professional she was and he did a great job. She arrived with Chad, never missed a beat and Chad said she’s always been nothing but a professional horse.”

Brown, watching a group training on the wet and muddy Oklahoma Training Track Tuesday morning, agrees.

“You don’t know until you run them, but she impressed me I’ll tell you that,” said Brown, who won the Johnson last year with Watsdachances. “She went through a tight hole and drew off. She won the way you want to see a firster on the turf going long.She’s done well since the race. If she moves forward she should be real competitive in there.”

Junior Alvarado rode La Reine Bourbon, who is out of the Honor Grades mare Gratorious, in her debut and will be back aboard today. La Reine Bourbon is the 3-1 second choice behind Granny Mc’s Kitten at 5-2.

McMahon said he and Hill entertained offers to sell the filly after her maiden win, but opted to keep her when the prices didn’t match up with their assessment of her value and after talking it over with the Bourbon Lane partners.

“We did have the opportunity to sell her, but the offers weren’t enough,” McMahon said. “And the partners said they wanted to roll the dice and go again with her.”

Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Granny Mc’s Kitten, a daughter of Kitten’s Joy who was a nose behind Miss Frost in her debut July 28, endured a nightmarish trip in that race. She was off slow and extremely wide around the second turn.

“Different kind of situation for her, she was wide, still came running,” Brown said. “I’ll take a shot in there with her. If she moves forward she can be competitive.”

Aside from Dogwood Stable’s Miss Frost, who adds Lasix today for Tom Albertrani, the Johnson field includes La Mejor Fiesta, winner of her debut in mid-June and second in the July 13 Tippet Stakes last time out at Colonial Downs for Wesley Ward. Maiden winners Candy Kitty, Duff One and Chase My Tail complete the body of the field. True Blue Nation is entered for main track only.

The P. G. Johnson is one of two stakes today, along with the My Flag going 1 1/8 miles on the main track. Darley Stable’s Sister State, a winner earlier in the meet for Kiaran McLaughlin, and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Toasting, fourth in the Grade 1 Mother Goose last time out, lead the field for the $100,000 event. Others entered are Grand Mere, Skyfall, Profetiza and Flash Forward.