Ten. Ask trainer David Donk if you think he can hit double digits in Saratoga wins this summer, and he’ll lean a little bit farther back on that post by the three-eighths pole, laugh and set you straight.
“I’ve got to get to eight first,” he said Wednesday morning. Donk gets his chance in a big way today with Romantic Babe in the $100,000 P.G. Johnson Stakes for 2-year-old fillies on the turf. The day’s ninth race attracted a predictably even group of seven, none with more than one win on their records. StarLadies Racing’s Orbolution looks like the favorite off a maiden win here going 1 1/16 miles July 23, but she’s got plenty of competition.
Donk’s filly, owned by Alistair Fyfe’s Alifyfe Racing, is 9-2 on the morning line and comes off a maiden win going 5 1/2 furlongs. The chestnut daughter of Girolamo looked the part Wednedsay, walking the shedrow under a red and white plaid cooler and getting a little antsy after training on a cool morning. She settled down with a lip chain and a mint from Donk’s wife and assistant Faye. Manny Franco rides the graduate of Fasig-Tipton Kentucky’s October sale from post five.
Donk loved the debut, an off-the-pace run at 38-1 Aug. 11. That day, Romantic Babe broke last of 10, moved up to eighth around the turn, steadied off heels midway on the turn and then closed between horses to win by 1 1/4 lengths while galloping out like a horse in search of more distance. She gets that, and another turn, today.
“She was real professional,” Donk said of the win. “Great demeanor, she handled herself real well in the paddock, she got squeezed a little bit at the break, overcame a little adversity. In the stretch, she split horses. I thought she was very professional.”
To read the rest of the P. G. Johnson preview, download Thursday's digital edition of The Saratoga Special.